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VR vs. Mac and Linux

Until now, the Mac and Linux operating systems have been pretty balanced support for virtual reality (VR) compared to PC. Studios working with the Oculus Rift’s second development kit (DK2) have been free to add VR support to titles that are heading to these operating systems (OS). It would have been fair to assume that this kind of support would carry right on through to the launch of the consumer version of the device in Q1 2016. Sadly it was revealed that this won’t be the case last week, as Oculus itself confirmed the PC specifications for the Oculus Rift, without mentioning the same for Mac and Linux.

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The company’s Atman Binstock then confirmed the situation in a follow-up blog, noting: “Our development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows. We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline.” As a result, the latest version of the Oculus software development kit (SDK), 0.6.0.0, has been released for PC but hasn’t come to these other platforms.

It’s certainly a shame and somewhat surprising given the relatively equal footing the platforms have found themselves on so far. Then again, the new stance is one that Mac and Linux users are no doubt used to by now and, if it means getting the Oculus Rift out sooner rather than later, the overwhelming majority would likely agree that this is the preferred option.

Perhaps the biggest issue is for all of the developers that have promised Mac and Linux versions of their VR titles, either through crowd-funding campaigns or otherwise. For now, these studios are somewhat left in the dark. It’s not an immediate concern, but something that is best fixed sooner rather than later.

But that does beg the question of what kind of a role Mac and Linux will play in the future of VR. How long will those that use these platforms have to wait to be able to join in on the action? Will Valve and HTC be launching the Vive with full support? On the Mac front, could Apple perhaps have its own answer to VR, as recent job listings have implied? The most likely answer to all of these is that support for the Oculus Rift will follow on on both Mac and Linux shortly after the kit’s release.

For now, PC has gained a head start in the VR race. It’s not a fact that’s going to divide crowds or call the technology’s future into question – though many will be understandably upset – but it is an issue that many will hope to see resolved not long after the launch of the Oculus Rift.