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Your Mac is fine for VR, just not the Rift

There's a bit of unpacking to do here

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The Oculus Rift will offer no support for any flavor of Apple computer when it launches, which is a situation that has frustrated and perplexed some would-be customers and even developers who create games on the Mac platform. You've likely seen the stories about how Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has "slammed" Apple or "attacked" the company by saying it doesn't make good computers.

But that's not really what's going on here, and I doubt anyone in the tech industry thinks that Apple makes a poor computer ... when taken holistically. What Luckey is saying, in his very blunt way, is that Apple's design decisions and Oculus' needs aren't compatible.

So what was said?

Oculus founder CEO was asked about Mac support by Shacknews a few days ago, and his answer was honest, if a bit brutal.

"That is up to Apple, and if they ever release a good computer we will do it," he stated.

Luckey may or may be saying Apple makes a bad computer, he's speaking in reference to his own product. Luckey was pointing out the fact that, at the very basic level, Apple doesn't even sell a system that can meet the system requirements of the Oculus Rift as they exist today. How do you support something that doesn't meet the basic needs of your product?

"It just boils down to the fact that Apple doesn't prioritize high-end GPUs," Luckey continued. "You can buy a $6,000 Mac Pro with the top of the line AMD Fire-Pro D700 and it still doesn't match our recommended spec."

Which is a problem: Oculus could spend the time and money on writing strong software support for the Mac, but why do so when the hardware can't run the frickin' games?

"We'd love to support Mac, but right now there's just not a single machine out there that supports it," Luckey stated. "Even if we can support on the software side, there's just no audience of people that can run the vast majority of software out there."

Your Apple is fine, just not for the Rift

This stance isn't new, and Luckey has been upfront about his frustration with Apple's GPU situation for a while. This Tweet is from December of 2015:

But we have to remember that what Luckey saying is that Apple doesn't make good hardware for the Rift. There's no reason a virtual reality headset couldn't run on the Mac systems that exist today. Pick up your phone and look at it. It's powerful enough to support VR. That PlayStation 4 hooked up to your TV? Even though it's a slightly aging console, it can support VR.

Virtual reality is doable on damned near every existing computing platform you can imagine but — and here is the catch — developers have to be willing to create games for that hardware and accept its limitations. You have to raise or lower your aim and amount of optimization to match each platform.

Oculus has decided that there is a minimal level of power necessary to create and support the games that will show off the Rift, and right now Apple doesn't sell hardware that matches those specs. That doesn't mean that Apple products don't work for VR, because VR isn't a single platform or set of specs. It means that Apple doesn't match up with the platform Oculus wants to sell.

Virtual reality is doable on damned near every existing computing platform you can imagine

And that's likely to change; Oculus has said on numerous occasions that the recommended specs aren't going to be adjusted for a number of years. "The recommended spec will stay constant over the lifetime of the Rift," an official blog post stated. "As the equivalent-performance hardware becomes less expensive, more users will have systems capable of the full Rift experience. Developers, in turn, can rely on Rift users having these modern machines, allowing them to optimize their game for a known target, simplifying development."

So the price of hardware will go down, but the spec won't be raised. This could allow Apple to catch up, but overall it means that the gaming PC needed to run the Oculus Rift will fall in price, and developers will be able to maintain a consistent development platform for the medium- to long-term.

The Rift wants to treat your PC like a console, and to be let into the party you need to be able to hit the minimum power requirements. With no currently-existing hardware that can do so, software development for Apple laptops and desktops makes little sense.

Your phone can likely provide a passable VR experience, so it's silly to think that a high-end Mac Pro would be unable to do the same. But it's not worth the time and effort it would take to continue developing for Apple hardware when the hardware won't be able to support the sort of games Oculus has decided are the visual minimum for its platform. There is nothing stopping other companies, or Apple itself, from making VR hardware that works with the company's laptops and desktop systems, however. It just has to lower the minimum acceptable specs so companies can optimize their games and experiences.

This isn't a matter of a wunderkind "slamming" or "annihilating" another company, it's about creating a floor for VR development on the Rift. Oculus had to draw a virtual line in the sand in the course of simplifying VR development, and all existing Apple systems found themselves on the wrong side.

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