Apple’s Vision Pro mixed reality headset was unveiled in late 2022 to much fanfare. As the tech giant’s first entry into the emerging virtual and augmented reality market, excitement has been building around the capabilities and potential applications of the Vision Pro.
However, one notable absence from the Vision Pro’s launch was support from popular streaming service Netflix. Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters announced that the company has no plans to develop an app for the Vision Pro headset at this time.
This article will examine why Netflix made this decision, the challenges of developing for a new platform like the Vision Pro, and what the future could hold for Netflix on augmented and virtual reality devices.
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Why No Netflix App for Vision Pro?
According to Peters, Netflix’s decision not to support the Vision Pro at launch boils down to the limited addressable market that the headset represents in its early days.
He stated: “We want to be thoughtful about where we invest and make sure that it’s relevant for our members. There’s always a chance that the success of a device after launch changes our view on it, but we want to be careful about investing in places that aren’t really relevant for most of our members.”
Essentially, Netflix does not believe the Vision Pro user base will be substantial enough in the near term to warrant dedicated development resources. While Apple has not released official sales projections, most estimates expect the $2,000+ headset to sell in the low millions in its first year – a meaningful but niche audience for a service with over 220 million subscribers.
Additionally, Netflix may be concerned about limiting access to its content to a closed platform like the Vision Pro. As a service available across thousands of devices, Netflix has thrived on ubiquity and accessibility. Developing an app exclusively for the Vision Pro would go against that ethos of platform agnosticism.
Challenges of Developing for New Platforms
Creating apps for unproven platforms brings a host of challenges that likely factored into Netflix’s decision:
User Base Unknowns: Without any sales data or usage information, it is difficult to predict how many users will adopt a new device, how heavily they will use it, and if it will achieve mainstream success. Apps developed for failed platforms are wasted resources.
Development Costs: Building a quality VR/AR app requires specialized development skills that Netflix may not have in-house. Hiring VR specialists or contractors raises costs.
Uncertainty Around Use Cases: How exactly will users interact with content in an immersive headset environment? Netflix may be unsure how video consumption will work in augmented or virtual reality.
UI/UX Design Hurdles: Designing user interfaces for VR/AR brings new complexity around issues like motion sickness, text legibility, and interaction paradigms. More R&D would be required to reimagine Netflix’s interface.
Lack of Monetization Options: Netflix’s core business model of subscriptions and ad-free viewing may not translate well to AR/VR. Less certainty around monetization makes the platform less appealing.
These challenges likely gave Netflix pause in committing resources to developing for the Vision Pro when its core audience lies elsewhere.
How Users Can Access Netflix on Vision Pro
Though there is no dedicated Netflix app available for the Vision Pro at launch, users can still access the streaming service through the device’s web browser.
The Vision Pro runs an iOS-based operating system called realityOS that features a version of the Safari web browser optimized for augmented and virtual reality. This allows users to open the Netflix website and stream shows and movies just like they would on an iPhone or iPad.
While functional, the web experience lacks the optimization, convenience, and immersive features a purpose-built VR application could offer. But it does provide basic Netflix access for early adopters of the Vision Pro headset.
Accessibility through the browser may give Netflix a low-risk way to evaluate early usage metrics and user feedback for VR content consumption, and build a case for eventual full app development. The company took a similar approach when launching on iPhone – creating a web app before later releasing a dedicated iOS client.
What Does This Mean for Netflix’s VR/AR Strategy?
Though they are holding off on the Vision Pro for now, Netflix has indicated interest in pursuing virtual and augmented reality content in the future.
In his comments, Peters acknowledged VR/AR’s potential, saying: “We’ll be keeping an eye on all of the opportunities there and hopefully at some point it becomes meaningful enough for members that we invest more directly.”
Netflix has already commissioned some VR content, including an animated short for the Daydream platform and Stranger Things VR experience. More interactive content in VR seems inevitable as the technology matures.
For now, Netflix appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach, allowing early adopters to test out the capabilities of devices like the Vision Pro before deciding whether to fully commit resources to apps and content development. But AR/VR remains on their radar for the future.
What It Means for the Vision Pro
The lack of a Netflix app is a setback for Apple in promoting video content and entertainment options for the Vision Pro at launch. But Netflix was also absent from the early days of both the iPhone and iPad before coming around to developing for iOS.
If Apple’s headset gains traction and proves viable for media consumption, Netflix may be compelled to enter the fray with its own app optimized for augmented and virtual reality, just as it did on previous Apple devices.
For now, Apple will need to rely on other streaming services like Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max to provide video content for the headset in Netflix’s absence. These streaming holdouts illustrate that the Vision Pro still has questions to answer about its mass market appeal.
What is The Future of AR/VR Video Streaming
Despite Netflix holding off on the Vision Pro for now, expectations remain high for virtual and augmented reality technology to offer new frontiers in entertainment experiences.
As the hardware evolves and headsets become lighter, cheaper, and more mainstream, companies like Netflix may invest more in creating premium VR content across genres from drama to comedy to documentaries.
Exclusive interactive stories that place viewers directly into immersive new worlds could become the ultimate manifestation of Netflix’s push into original content. Live sports, concerts, and events could also take on new life in mixed reality.
For all these future possibilities, Netflix’s app abstinence at the Vision Pro’s launch is but a temporary setback. Whether on Apple’s headset or another AR/VR platform, Netflix will follow the users. In time, as mass adoption grows, Netflix too will dive deeper into VR and AR.
Netflix’s decision to hold off on developing for the Vision Pro headset reflects the calculated approach the company takes towards new platforms. Without sufficient addressable market size or clear use cases today, Netflix appears unwilling to dedicate limited resources to an unproven device.
Yet with the VR/AR market projected to grow into the billions, Netflix seems poised to jump in more fully once the technology matures and mass audience scales. They may be VR/AR spectators for now, but expect Netflix to be major players in immersive content as augmented and virtual worlds inevitably go mainstream.