The weird speculation that Apple could buy GoPro makes perfect sense -- here's why

Facebook, Sony, Google, HTC, Microsoft, and just about every other company under the sun appear to be prepping for a future ruled by virtual reality, interactive holograms, and dorky-looking goggles.

But Apple, the most valuable company in the world, has not joined the chorus of so-called “mixed reality” supporters — at least, not yet.

That could be changing, and there’s a growing body of circumstantial evidence to suggest that Apple is working on something big in virtual reality.

In this light, the weird analyst speculation that Apple is going to buy GoPro begins to make a lot more sense.

At this week’s Business Insider Ignition conference, top Apple analyst Gene Munster identified CEO Tim Cook’s biggest challenge as navigating the ripple effects that virtual reality is already starting to show in the smartphone market.

“I think it’s going to start slow, but ten years from now, I think the iPhone is going to be a much smaller part of Apple’s overall business. And I think navigating that is probably the most stressful thing that [Cook] has to deal with,” Munster said.

Earlier this year, GoPro and Google struck a partnership to create Google Jump, a system of 16 cameras that can take 360-degree video primed for capturing virtual reality-ready video. If Apple is really preparing to get into virtual reality, that’s the kind of expertise and hardware it would want on its side.

Microsoft HoloLensMicrosoftA demo of Microsoft’s HoloLens ‘augmented reality’ goggles, which project holograms into your field of vision.

And while, as Munster says, it would be a years-long transition, having GoPro on board would give Apple a head start on building a consumer-ready product. After all, it’s not like Apple has ever been shy about taking years and years to get something right.

In the meanwhile, Apple has been quietly making some strategic hires in the virtual reality space, including a key engineer from Microsoft’s HoloLens holographic goggles. Over the past couple of years, Apple also snapped up a few startups working in virtual reality, including PrimeSense and Metaio.

So the picture starts to come into focus. And if Apple is indeed looking to play a long game with virtual reality, GoPro is a likely acquisition target.

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