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Apple Changes the Name of Its Mixed-Reality Software to “xrOS” as a Sign That a Headset is Coming

Apple Inc. is accelerating the development of a mixed-reality headset, the company’s first significant new product category since the Apple Watch, and has renamed the accompanying software in the latest indication of an impending debut.

According to people familiar with the topic, the business intends to release the headset as early as next year, along with a dedicated operating system and app store for third-party apps. According to the insiders who wanted not to be identified since the project is still under wraps, the corporation recently changed the operating system’s name from “realityOS” to “xrOS.”

The new software title alludes to the headset’s mixed-reality capabilities. The acronym “XR” refers to extended reality, which includes both augmented and virtual reality. Augmented reality superimposes images and virtual information on top of the natural world, whereas virtual reality provides an immersive experience for gaming and watching videos.

Apple’s foray into the market pits it against Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, which is counting on the metaverse partly to reduce its dependency on Apple products. The move is also part of Apple’s ongoing pursuit of the “next big thing.”

With the launching of the Apple Watch in 2015, the company transformed its wearables business into a sector that currently accounts for more than 10% of its sales, generating $41.2 billion in the previous fiscal year. Apple’s Cupertino, California-based spokesman declined to comment on the company’s headset intentions.

When Apple first began working on the operating system roughly seven years ago, it was internally dubbed “realityOS” — or “rOS” for short. Within the corporation, Apple has recently begun referring to the software as “xrOS.” Unlike the more generic-sounding “reality” appellation, the new brand might help Apple claim the emerging mixed-reality sector.

Across the same time as the name change, a shadowy shell corporation called Deep Dive LLC filed to trademark the brand “xrOS” in numerous countries around the world, including the United States. If Apple is behind the filings, it hints that it is also considering using “xrOS” as its public product name.

Deep Dive, which was registered in 2017 by yet another shell firm, first applied for the name in March in Switzerland. Registrations were recently expanded to the United Kingdom, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Ukraine, the Philippines, Australia, Japan, Canada, and the European Union.

A law firm representing Deep Dive filed an opposition in September to an unrelated Chinese company’s March US trademark application for the xrOS brand.

“xrOS” is not a name that Apple would be the first company to use. Meta had a group of about 300 engineers working on a mixed-reality operating system with the same name. This was a strange coincidence. But it doesn’t look like this company is behind the latest trademarks.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has talked about his interest in augmented reality for several years, and the company has built a platform called ARKit that lets AR apps run on iPhones and iPads.

Its first device in this space is likely to be much more expensive than existing mainstream competitors. It will have ultra-high-resolution screens for VR and a number of external cameras for AR. It will also be able to track your hand and run on a processor based on the M2 chip, which is found in Apple’s most recent Macs.

Apple showed its board of directors a sneak peek of the device earlier this year. This was a sign that development was going well.

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