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Zuckerberg's Apple Vision Pro hot take just gave him a Ballmer iPhone moment

On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg chimed in with his thoughts about the Apple Vision Pro, and they're oddly reminiscent of how Microsoft's Steve Ballmer slammed the iPhone for being useless and of no value to customers.

On the one hand, it's good for the head of a rival company not to seem all that worried about an incoming competitive product. On the other hand, executives that have dismissed something of Apple's for the last 20 years has historically ended very poorly.

Just ask Microsoft's former CEO, Steve Ballmer.

Back in 2007, following Steve Jobs's unveiling of the original iPhone, Ballmer laughed a little at Apple's "expensive" smartphone that he believed wouldn't appeal to business customers because it "doesn't have a keyboard." At the time he wasn't won over by Apple's high price tag, or the fact the device was fully subsidized with AT&T.

To his credit, he did say in that same interview that the original iPhone "may sell very well," so he wasn't completely discounting the handset. But there wasn't any doubt at the time he wasn't expecting Apple's first smartphone to really compete with anything — especially not Microsoft.

We all know how that went.

Dare to repeat history

Meta Quest 3 VR headset

Now in 2023 we may have a similar moment on our hands, courtesy of Meta's CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Right out of the gate, Zuckerberg talks about the hardware differences between the Vision Pro and Meta's own headset, noting Apple's hardware features a "higher resolution display."

He also notes that the Apple-branded headset has so much power it requires a portable battery, or to be plugged in to work. Zuckerberg says it's a "design trade-off" that "might make sense" for the use cases that Apple has envisioned for its first headset.

Here's a particularly interesting excerpt from Zuckerberg's recent comments:

But look, I think that their announcement really showcases the difference in the values and the vision that our companies bring to this in a way that I think is really important. We innovate to make sure that our products are as accessible and affordable to everyone as possible, and that is a core part of what we do. And we have sold tens of millions of Quests.

More importantly, our vision for the metaverse and presence is fundamentally social. It's about people interacting in new ways and feeling closer in new ways. Our device is also about being active and doing things. By contrast, every demo that they showed was a person sitting on a couch by themself.

Zuckerberg is getting a little ahead of himself in a way that's similar to Ballmer, but he's also making a valid point. Sure, Facebook and Apple have different business models and that will probably always be the case, something the Vision Pro makes just as clear as anything else when comparing the two.

But, Zuckerberg pointing out that Meta has already "sold tens of millions of Quests" is Ballmer territory, and not really the point. The Quest lineup of headsets has done pretty well, especially if you don't count the Quest Pro. But discounting the Vision Pro in any way because of the sales you've already made without that device being available doesn't really matter.

Ballmer made the same point when he was talking about the original iPhone, saying Microsoft was selling "millions and millions and millions of phones a year," but that Apple was "selling zero phones a year." That was correct! But also the future happened, the iPhone launched, and now Windows on mobile is basically dead while Apple's iOS is definitely not.

As for the valid point, it's that social bit in his comment that stands out, because he's not wrong. Even when Apple had the opportunity to show the Vision Pro in an office setting with multiple people wearing the headset, they chose to just have a single person.

Apple Vision Pro on an airplane
Apple Vision Pro on an airplane

That's how the whole showcase went, with one person experiencing Vision Pro in any given instance. Apple did try to shake the social tree a little with the inclusion of FaceTime and support for video conferencing apps like Microsoft Teams, but it still seemed like a pretty lonely endeavor Apple was selling.

This is just the beginning

Just like the iPhone, the Apple Vision Pro headset is going to evolve in a variety of different ways over the years. It will improve both in software and hardware, and, eventually, there may come a time when Apple Vision Pro doesn't look anything like it does right now, or it's just "Apple Vision" minus Pro.

Either that or Apple just launches two different kinds of products, something the rumor mill has suggested in the past. Whatever happens, Vision Pro will become more accessible and affordable, which is when Meta and the other companies making VR headsets will certainly have to start worrying.