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Apple's AR goggles seen as a booster to innovation

By MA SI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-06-12 07:04

Apple CEO Tim Cook addresses the media next to the company's new Vision Pro augmented reality headset at the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California, on Monday. [Photo/Agencies]

China's augmented reality industry is expected to usher in a new stage of growth, as Apple Inc announced on Monday that preorders for its Vision Pro AR goggles will begin on the Chinese mainland on Friday.

The move came as Apple attaches greater importance to China, which is not just a major market but also a vital link in its supply chains and a great source of innovation for the United States-based technological company, experts said.

But as Apple brings ChatGPT to iPhones in an artificial intelligence overhaul, it will see rising competition from Chinese rivals that are also doubling down on AI applications, they added.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the Chinese mainland will be among the first group of countries and regions outside the US where consumers can buy Vision Pro locally, with it becoming available on June 28. Cook made the remarks on Monday as he opened Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference at its headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Cook said that the device can enable users to work and collaborate with an infinite virtual canvas for apps, relive treasured memories in a three-dimensional format and watch TV shows and movies in a one-of-a-kind personal cinema.

This month, Chinese internet companies including Alibaba, Tencent, ByteDance, China Mobile and Sina are launching new apps for Vision Pro, such as Douyin VR Live, Taobao and Tencent Video, Apple said.

Pan Helin, a member of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's Expert Committee for Information and Communication Economy, said, "As the world's largest market and manufacturing base for consumer electronics, China is of long-term, strategic importance to Apple."

Huajin Securities said in a research note that the Chinese mainland and China's Taiwan region provide a combined 64 percent of components and assembling services for Vision Pro, highlighting Apple's reliance on China's efficient supply chains.

Cook said in an earlier interview with China Daily that "there's no supply chain in the world more critical to Apple than that of China".

Zhao Siquan, a senior analyst at market research company International Data Corp's China branch, said that with Vision Pro's official release in China, the nation's software developers will create more innovative applications for it, giving new vitality to the domestic AR industry.

Shipments of China's AR smart glasses jumped over 150 percent year-on-year in 2023 to 262,000 units, according to IDC.

At the event on Monday, Apple also announced that it is bringing OpenAI's ChatGPT to a wide range of its products and platforms, including the Siri virtual smart assistant. This is part of "Apple Intelligence", a new personalized AI system which aims to offer users a way to navigate Apple devices more easily.

Apple said users of its products will be able to access ChatGPT's text-based answers as well as its image- and document-processing capabilities without the need to jump between tools. The English test version will become available in the autumn.

Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities, said that the move showcases Apple's strengths in ecosystem integration, but investors want to see more.

Due to the need for regulatory approval, some of Apple's latest AI features may not be available in China for the moment.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to see mounting competition from Chinese smartphone makers such as Huawei and Xiaomi in AI phones, experts said.

Wang Peng, a researcher at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, said, "Almost all big Chinese phone brands have developed their in-house rivals to ChatGPT and have showcased their progress in integrating AI into phones ahead of Apple."

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