Mark Zuckerberg attacks Apple's Vision Pro - but here's why his criticisms may have 'no validity at all'

Days after Apple finally revealed its highly anticipated mixed reality headset, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has lashed out at the product and suggested his Meta products are better.

In a companywide meeting with employees, the chief executive said the Vision Pro did not present a breakthrough in virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) Meta had not "already explored".

Zuckerberg also criticised the Vision Pro for being too expensive and anti-social when compared to Meta products.

But a leading tech journalist who has used the Vision Pro along with several other VR devices said Zuckerberg's criticisms have "no validity at all", comparing them to then-Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer's derogatory comments about the first iPhone when it was originally announced.

Apple unveiled the Vision Pro in California on Monday (local time) at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) after years of rumours and speculation about its first VR headset or "spatial computer".

The company heralded the device as "the result of decades of experience designing high‑performance, mobile and wearable devices culminating in the most ambitious product Apple has ever created".

"Vision Pro integrates incredibly advanced technology into an elegant, compact form, resulting in an amazing experience every time you put it on," Apple said.

However, after the reveal of the Vision Pro - which is set to launch at a cost of US$3500 (NZ$5711) - Zuckerberg was far from the only commentator to share a negative reaction as Twitter hosted countless hot takes from people mocking the headset.

But none of those reactions came from someone running a company in such direct competition to the device as Meta.

"They went with a higher resolution display and between that and all the technology they put in there to power it, it costs seven times more and now requires so much energy that now you need a battery and a wire attached to it to use it," said Zuckerberg.

"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.

"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 themselves - that could be the vision of the future of computing, but like, it's not the one that I want."

Award-winning Australian tech journalist Alice Clarke was at WWDC23 and among the handful of media who were given a demonstration of the Vision Pro.

She wrote about the experience for Gizmodo with an article that is generally very positive, while emphasising it was in a very controlled environment at Apple Park.

"Comparing the Vision Pro to other VR headsets I've used makes all the others feel like a first draft. They feel like gimmicks in comparison," Clarke told Newshub.

"The Vision Pro is kind of fulfilling the promise that all those other VR headsets made in that it's easy to use, the controls work consistently and it actually recognised my gestures. It also looked genuinely like I was in a real other world, without making me want to vomit."

As for Zuckerberg's claim the Meta Quest product is all about social connection while the Vision pro is all about people sitting alone on couches, Clarke said they reveal he is nervous about a rival product that is "significantly better" to Meta's.

"'The Metaverse' is just as much of an isolating experience as the Vision Pro, if not more so," she said.

"Using a Meta headset is sitting alone on your couch and interacting with other people's avatars who may or may not have legs. It's all about you having to rely entirely on social networks for your socialisation and to buy digital real estate or other weird NFT nonsense they're going to put in there.

"The Vision Pro is not about having all of your social interactions in a virtual world.

"Zuckerberg's comments had quite a similar tone to Steve Ballmer's comments about the first iPhone back when that launched, when he said, 'People will still want to buy Motorola phones, Apple's is far too expensive, it doesn't need to exist. We're fine - this isn't going to bother our business.' How many Windows phones do you see these days?

"The Metaverse looks and feels like the first draft of something that Second Life perfected 20 years ago. It may have been really great during the COVID-19 lockdowns and it may be great during the next pandemic, but for non-lockdown times let's not pretend it's a real solution to anything."

Clarke's commentary about her experience with the Vision Pro was published over the past week alongside others from the likes of Devindra Hardawar at Endgadget, Marques Brownlee of MKBHD, Scott Stein at CNET, Nilay Patel at The Verge and Lauren Goode at Wired.

As for what the Vision Pro will cost in New Zealand and when it will be released here, Apple would not comment beyond what was initially announced: it will "be available early next year on and at Apple Store locations in the US, with more countries coming later next year".