Metaverse, the cutting-edge technology that brings together the real and virtual worlds, is the next big thing.

Apple, however, is not rushing to be part of it.

That's at least according to a recent Bloomberg News report, which claims that the tech giant is pushing its very-much-anticipated virtual reality headset to 2023.

Apple's strategy seems to be in sharp contrast to other tech giants. For instance, Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook Inc., unveiled a new Oculus VR headset last October. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Qualcomm teamed up to build the metaverse by announcing a partnership to expand and accelerate the diffusion of augmented reality to consumer and business markets.

Is Apple really falling behind the race to the metaverse?

Rachel Mercer, founder and chief experience officer at Photo Innovation, does not think so.

"Apple is not at all behind in building the metaverse," Mercer said. "Facebook and many others are making the critical mistake of believing that the metaverse needs to be both built and delivered all in the same device. What powered Apple's tremendous growth? The iPhone and the app store is the exact same paradigm that will drive the metaverse."

Mercer thinks that the assumption that the metaverse needs to be a persistent, always-on, contextual environment is not true.

"In my opinion, Apple is well poised to be a viable competitor to both Microsoft and Facebook in part because of their wide app ecosystem and strong developer network," Mercer said. "If I can access Disney's metaverse and Roblox's metaverse and Epic's metaverse all through the Apple device, that seems like a win for Apple to me."

Apple's strategy on the metaverse is one of a "colonizer" rather than a "pioneer," according to Virtuleap CEO Amir Bozorgzadeh. 

"Hype cycles for emerging technologies are a notorious roulette game, and Apple has proven itself to be a sage when it comes to timing," Bozorgzadeh said. "The 'metaverse' is at such an early stage in its market evolution that any early plays are exceedingly risky, and those that come in prematurely will inevitably subsidize the more mature entrants. That is what is happening right now and Apple is smart enough to understand the dynamics at play, and how best to capitalize on it."

Kopin Corp. President and CEO Dr. John C.C. Fan is on the same page.

"Apple is well-known in their care and deliberation with its consumer products, especially for such an important new category entry. Of course, they always work on tight secrecy. Nevertheless, I do not think they are behind at all. In fact, I believe they are fully aware of the challenges and are actively tackling and overcoming them. Apple will be there when the consumer users really arrive," Fan said.

Anne Olderog, a senior partner at Vivaldi consulting group, noted that Apple may take an alternative approach.

"As always, Apple chose to 'think different,' " Olderog said. "They have no interest to jump on the bandwagon set in motion by Meta." 

Olderog thinks that no single company can dominate the metaverse, which turns the internet into an "Interaction Field" of "sub-ecosystems."

"The absence of physical assets tilts the balance from economies of scale to network effects, as shown by the emerging structure of DAOs [decentralized autonomous organizations]," she said.

“And that means that technology giants like Apple will have to be part of it. In fact, some of the Apple valuations are already fueled by expectations of what it might do in, or with, the metaverse," she said.

The critical question for Olderog is what strategy the tech giant will follow, whether it will go for an open system of engaged creators or DAOs in the metaverse or go for a closed system.

"The upcoming slate of Apple products might provide some clues. Its VR headset is not expected to be a metaverse play, built on constant presence, but a traditional VR product with bursts of gaming and entertainment," she said. "There is also speculation that the AirPods might one day evolve to include visual elements and pave the way to a metaverse entrance." 

In the end, "Apple might be pulled into the metaverse," Olderog said. "Better have a strategy than experience a slide."

That is true for every company in the rapidly changing universe of cutting-edge technologies.