A growing number of streaming giants announced they aren’t supporting Apple Vision Pro, with YouTube and Spotify now joining Netflix to neither build a dedicated app, nor allow the iPad version of their apps on the upcoming mixed reality device. Is it a lack of confidence in Apple’s headset? An opening move in a coming XR platform war? We can’t say for sure.

Update (January 19th, 2024): According to a new Bloomberg report, both Google and Spotify announced their respective video and music streaming services aren’t planning to launch dedicated apps for Apple Vision Pro, or what the company is calling a ‘spatial computer’.

Joining Netflix, both YouTube and Spotify are also not allowing their iPad apps to work on the device, leaving users to interact with those services over the headset’s web browser. It’s also not clear at this time whether Meta will also allow its apps on the headset.

None of the streaming giants have explained exactly why they aren’t building dedicated apps or simply allowing their iPad apps to work, however there are a few possibilities.

At first, the device’s reach is likely set to be fairly limited, with reports indicating that less than 100,000 units of the very pricey headset will be available at launch. The companies may be adopting a wait-and-see approach before offering support, as the $3,500 headset will no doubt straddle the prosumer and developer kit segment for some time until a prospective cheaper device comes to market.

Notably, none of the providers have announced full-throated support for any specific brand of XR headset; Meta Quest does have both a dedicated YouTube and Netflix app, but those companies haven’t thrown their chips in wholesale with Meta based on the low frequency of app updates—in Netflix’s case, it’s actually never seen an update on Quest beyond 2019. Conversely, Spotify has also never released an app for Quest, although it did release one for AR headset Magic Leap 1 back in 2018.

While it isn’t clear whether platform war lines are actually being drawn, Google, Samsung and Qualcomm have partnered on an XR headset which hopes to compete with Apple, so we may need to see things unfold before truly understanding just why some of the biggest names in media streaming aren’t supporting Apple’s latest hardware. Whatever the case, these are all direct rivals in their respective streaming areas, so we’ll just have to wait and see why. 

The original article announcing Netflix’s lack of Vision Pro support follows below:

Original Article (January 18th, 2024): According to a Bloomberg report, Netflix isn’t launching an app on Vision Pro, instead offering its streaming service through the web. This marks a reversal of its initial intention to allow the iPad version to run on Vision Pro.

Here’s the statement Netflix left with Bloomberg:

Our members will be able to enjoy Netflix on the web browser on the Vision Pro, similar to how our members can enjoy Netflix on Macs.

While Apple hasn’t commented on the Netflix snub, it has made a point of heavily featuring rival platform Disney+ and its own Apple TV+ service in pre-launch coverage, which may explain why Netflix isn’t jumping at the chance.

Notably, at launch Vision Pro will also feature bespoke apps for ESPN+, NBA, MLB, PGA Tour, Max, Discovery+, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, Peacock, Pluto TV, Tubi, Fubo, Crunchyroll, Red Bull TV, Imax, TikTok and Mubi.

SEE ALSO
Apple Makes It Easier to Browse Vision Pro Apps Outside of the Headset

This isn’t the first time Netflix has snubbed XR users though. The company offers an app on Quest, however it’s largely unchanged since it was released on the original Quest in 2019.

Still, it’s an odd decision considering Apple prides itself on Vision Pro’s mixed reality passthrough capabilities, which would mean Netflix wouldn’t necessarily need to develop entire virtual environments for the headset, instead offering an app as a floating window.

Why all the hub-bub? Apple Vision Pro is due to go on pre-sale on Friday, January 19th, and ship on February 2nd, which will put the $3,500 headset to the ultimate test to see whether people actually use it to view casual streaming content despite what some hands-on reports have insinuated as being too heavy for long viewing sessions. We’ve already had a preview (and may get another before launch), so check out our coverage below for our first impressions.

Hands-on: Apple Vision Pro isn’t for Gaming, But it Does Everything Else Better

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • MackRogers

    It is illogical for Netflix to not be platform agnostic. I have heard rumors they wanted access to tracking data and Apple doesn’t allow it.

    In this case, Apple should have probably kowtowed and just given into whatever Netflix’s demands were. NOT having Netflix is a bullet point you don’t want for your largely theatre presentation device.

    The web browser interface is awful and completely inadequate for a device like Vision Pro.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Being platform agnostic isn’t the same as actively supporting every platform. Netflix will support any platform with a reasonable user base, but they for example don’t provide a Linux client. The main reason is the cost of supporting a platform compared to its size, and with estimated 33mn desktop users, Linux is dwarfed by the fully supported Android/iOS/Windows/MacOS.

      With Apple not being able to get enough displays to produce more than about 500K AVP in 2024, this makes it tiny even compared to Linux. I’m sure Netflix will support the visionOS platform once it has 50mn active users, maybe even at 10mn or 5mn, but that will still take years. So there is no rush, as like Linux users, AVP users can still use Netflix via Chrome, even if the experience is a lot worse.

      I’d also expect YouTube to natively support AVP once there are enough users watching ads that it makes financial sense. Google will probably aim to offer the best YouTube XR experience on the coming Samsung/Qualcomm/Google HMD, and might delay a launch on AVP until after that. But there is no way that AVP could collect a significant user base before competing XR HMDs are launched anyway.

      • foamreality

        It would take a couple of devs at netflix or youtube just a day or two to make an app for AVP. They are little more than a PWA to begin with. Same for linux. It makes no sense on linux because why would you need anything other than a browser for netflix ona desktop (there’s no youtube app on any other desktop OS either) . So for the sake of not looking lame , bad publicity for Netflix/YoutTube etc , it makes no sense that Netflix doesn’t support AVP. It could do so for negligible cost/effort. It chooses not to. So I think your second reasoning (some deal with Samsung/Google/Qualcomm in the works) is the real reason. They want to push Apple around (Apple TV is direct competitor to Netflix also) to get out of their expensive unfair walled garden tax, and who could blame them?

      • Dragon Marble

        But Apple deliberately made it so that they don’t need to actively support anything. All iPhone, iPad apps work on day one by default. That’s one of selling points, isn’t it? You actually have to actively disable it on AVP.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          Developers can forbid the use of their iOS apps on AVP, which Netflix and YouTube apparently did. That is similar to Macs with Apple Silicon that can also run iPad apps, but some companies (like Netflix) don’t allow running their iPad apps on Macs.

          So yes, Netflix/YouTube wouldn’t have to do anything for their apps to run on AVP. The most likely reason they didn’t use this is that the AVP UI based on eye tracking and hand gestures works well as a mouse point-and-click/drag replacement, but many mobile apps use a much richer set of gestures, with single/double/triple taps, swipes starting in the middle/from the edge, dragging and more. So apps with rich interactions may have to translate these to matching AVP UI gestures to offer more than just a clunky emulation.

          Initially sticking to browser based PWA clients optimized to work well with a mouse at least allows to use the full set of features. For now that may be a better choice for someone like Netflix than enabling an app optimized for touchscreen. A truly smooth user experience may require rethinking the interface for hand tracking, and currently nobody even has the required experience to do that. Waiting for UX patterns to first establish themselves on AVP may smarter than rushing out a subpar client for the bragging rights.

  • xyzs

    Full budget to produce the worst shows possibles, targeting the basic uneducated joes and karens, but a few hundred thousand to get a good VR app, nope.

    • foamreality

      Exactly, I don’t think its about cost/user base. The bad PR alone may cost them as much. Its a political move and may have something to do with the Google/Epic app store ruling, putting the squeeze on apple’s walled garden: they get to charge what they like, keep their store exclusive to their devices. Google is no longer allowed due to the ruling.

    • What makes you think Apple did NOT try that?

  • Sumiter

    I believe that the key is to making streaming multi user. in the Quest YouTube, Netflix, and Prime apps you cannot invite a friend/family over to watch a movie. You have to convolute it through PCVR and utilize bigscreen. Its not hard to setup however most people wouldn’t know where to start.

    Once Netflix, disney, max, etc…. allows you to invite friends and family over to watch in XR then we will see media viewers pop in the XR space.

    mass adoption = making things with less friction. Simple as that. iPhone went crazy over blackberry because it introduced less friction. AVP i don’t see as frictionless at this point. very expensive mini game player and solo media viewer. Quest is awesome but there is still a ton of friction there as well.

    • foamreality

      Yep. That’s why Steam is the number one PC gaming platform by miles. No other competitor comes close , they have zero friction on any device – they support every headset, every mobile device, every OS. They even support SteamVR on linux, steam link for raspberry pi. You can stream between different OS’s too. This is why they will continue to succeed. Users want to know the things they pay for will work on whatever hardware they choose. As it should be.

  • JakeDunnegan

    Considering AppleTV competes with Netflix, Youtube and Spotify competes with the iPhone music thing, this isn’t exactly a surprise. Maybe Spotify doesn’t appreciate having to give a cut to Apple and is doing this to spite them. Who knows.

    But, Apple IS one of the greediest companies on the planet, so I can understand.

    • kakek

      Pretty much every company is infinitely greedy. There’s a few semi-exception, where the company is in the hand of a single man that will push it’s particular vision along profitability. I’m pretty sure Zuckerberg and Newell both pushed VR because they liked it as much as because they thought it would be profitable.

      But mostly, it’s just about how much a company think it can afford to be greedy.
      And clearly, Apple is one of the company that think it can strongharm all it’s partners, because their client fidelity is so strong they can afford it.

      • david vincent

        Sure, as long as their customers agree to pay twice as much

  • another juan

    apple taking a big loss, since their expensive headset is marketed for watching media
    could this be the first skirmish in the predictable apple – google fight for the ar market?

    • Lucidfeuer

      I mean if Google was still in the fight…

  • Adam Smith

    This is great to see! Apple has been abusing their App Store power with impunity and they have been squeezing small to medium size businesses like us. Their PR team does a fantastic job to keep this bubbling up in media.