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Is Apple’s 1st step in to VR – a wake-up call?

The timing of the eventual release of Apple’s new headset could be coming at precisely the wrong time!

Is Apples VR experiment a massive mistake?

A change is gonna come – or is it?

Apple could very well be on the cusp of something huge.

If the much anticipated headset does finally see the light of day this June, at WWDC, will it be the beginning of the post iPhone era, or has the company picked precisely the wrong time to come to market?

You’d expect there to be a clamour for the high-end headset, but there are some signs out there that the world may not yet be ready for the next step, into an augmented future.

Too much too soon?

Apple’s headset has faltered in to existence, partly due to the reticence of the companies CEO, Tim Cook.

Cook has been open in his hesitation about setting foot in to the choppy augmented reality & virtual reality waters. In a recent, and rare, interview with GQ Magazine, he acknowledged his previous skepticism around smart glasses, before intimating that the company may be about to change its direction.

Although Cook is careful to neither confirm, nor deny of the existence of such a device, he is more than happy to discuss the potential of one;

“If you think about the technology itself with augmented reality, just to take one side of the AR/VR piece, the idea that you could overlay the physical world with things from the digital world could greatly enhance people’s communication, people’s connection”.

This seems to be a 180-degree turn in his thoughts of a few years back, when he was quoted as saying that glasses & goggles were not a smart idea, as “people would not really want to wear them”.

Strength at the top

Cook has been CEO of Apple since 2011 when Jobs passed away.

He has taken the company to new, heady, levels of success, and part of his success comes from not being afraid to admit his errors of judgement. In clarifying his change of view, Cook says that he learned the ability to do this, from his successor – Steve Jobs. Jobs once told Cook;

“Never to get married to your convictions of yesterday. To always, if presented with something new that says you were wrong, admit it and go forward instead of continuing to hunker down and say why you’re right.”

He also told Cook not to fear failure, but instead to “view it as an opportunity for reinvention.” So, with those words ringing loud in his ears, Cook, it would seem, has steered Apple to the point of release of the headset, but has the timing, for reasons out of his control, turned out to be all wrong?

Numbers don’t lie

Ming-Chi Kuo wrote on Medium yesterday that the sales and shipments of AR/VR headset devices are not exactly, well, stellar!

Sony has cut its 2023 production plans for the Playstation VR2 by about 20%. Another indication of the lack of uptake in the VR world, is that the product lifecycle shipment for Meta’s Quest Pro is only around 300,000 units. Add to that, Pico, who is China’s largest AR/VR headset brand, shipped 40% less units than they had predicted.

Breaking all that information down, leads to one conclusion – for three of the biggest, and most influential players in the AR/VR space, the road has been rocky. Pico, who owns ByteDance, is struggling, Sony’s PSVR 2 is not proving as popular as hoped, and Meta has just slashed the price of their Quest Pro by $500, to $1000. It’s significant to note that they’ve been forced in to the price reduction, just over four months after the product first launched.

Given that Apple’s headset could retail from anywhere between $3000-$4000, and the state of the global economy, could it be Apple may be forced in to a delay once again.

Forgive me the pun, but I am aware that we are not comparing apples, with apples here. The Reality Pro headset will be groundbreaking in virtually every area – and vastly different from anything we’ve seen before.

It will cost a lot because, you’ll be getting a lot! Head, hand, and eye-tracking for starters. It will feature micro-OLED panels, pancake optics, and will be controller free – but even so, there is no escaping the huge cost of it. Is the world ready to lay down that kind of cash? It may be, just may be, Apple is not targeting consumers with the release though, rather developers, so an entirely different demographic.

Ready or not…

I mentioned earlier that Cook said to GQ that an AR future “could enhance communication, and connection.” That sounds ever so familiar to Meta’s press release for their Quest Pro, which, as we know, has not paved the way with gold for them.

Meta only released their Quest Pro after an ecosystem of sorts was in place. Apple, I imagine, are stacking all their chips on the fact that, thanks to eager developers, they can create, and build an ecosystem after the AR/VR headset comes to market.

Apple is thought to be creating a whole new operating system called XROS or realityOS, that will be innovative, and create a new type of interaction. Whilst we still don’t know how the OS will function or appear, it would make sense for it to tap in to their existing strengths – Apple TV+ being a prime example. It could look to revolutionise how we consume our media content.

Wrapping up

Only last week, Apple invited one-hundred of their top executives to HQ, to get hands-on with the headset. Reportedly, the reactions were muted.

Cook, we know, has the final word, and he seems keen to finally get the thing released. It will never be perfect, and someone will always find fault, but it needs to be set-free.

When asked about the doubters, Cook’s response was full of belief in his company;

““Pretty much everything we’ve ever done, there were loads of sceptics with it. If you do something that’s on the edge, it will always have sceptics.”

That is certainly true of their headset. It could very well be that June 5th will be an historic day – but will it turn out to have been for the right reasons?

Time will tell…

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