Despite the numerous difficulties with the launch of the AR/VR headset, Apple is still planning a presentation for the beginning of this summer. A brand-new product category is currently a priority for the company, with considerable resources and years of development devoted to it.
Almost simultaneously Bloomberg and The New York Times said that the company plans to develop the direction of new headsets in the same way as the “smart” Apple Watch. However, given the sales plans, it will be more difficult with mixed reality.
At the time of the release of the Apple Watch, the sales plan was 40 million devices. But the watch is cheaper, and even with an explanation to potential users, why such a gadget was needed at all, it was much easier. The mixed reality headset has much more modest plans, with just one million sales in its first year.
And here it is worth considering that the new gadget, unlike the previous launches of new Apple products, enters a completely new territory. Mixed reality devices are practically non-existent, and this industry is poorly developed. Numerous attempts at virtual or augmented reality devices by competing companies are still difficult to call a mass phenomenon in various variants of their use.
And this is currently not even the biggest problem that Apple will have to overcome. According to insiders, the high cost is only part of it. There is also the question of ease of use because, in its current form, the headset resembles a ski mask and has a separate battery, which is not enough for more than two hours of use. Some of the testers called the device inconvenient.
A separate challenge is content, which will also practically not be available at the time the device is launched. Yes, of course, developers and media companies should quickly pick up on this. But at the start, the content will take time. And Apple will need to convince potential buyers that they need such a device for $3,000 at all. Although, in parallel, the company is working on cheaper variations of the headset, but such a launch will not happen earlier than a year or two after the release of the first and more expensive version.
The opinions inside Apple were also divided. The development team wanted to postpone the presentation once again in order to have more time to refine the technology to a more convenient format. The management, on the contrary, has no desire to delay again.
Last week, the Steve Jobs Theater gathered a hundred top executives. Such meetings of the “Fight Club” have been held annually since 2018. The topic is a demonstration of the development of mixed reality technology.
“The demonstrations were polished, glitzy and exciting, but many executives are clear-eyed about Apple’s challenges pushing into this new market.
Mixed reality — a category that melds augmented and virtual reality — is still a nascent area and far riskier than Apple’s earlier attempts to establish new beachheads. With the Mac, iPod, iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad, the company was essentially creating a better version of a product that people were familiar with. With the headset, Apple will have to explain to consumers why they’d want to own such a product at all,” says Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
Changes at the top of the company do not encourage optimism. Jony Ive left and no longer consults with Apple, and his replacement, Evans Hankey, didn’t last long either. Engineer Mike Rockwell is currently working on the project. Some employees left the project because they did not believe in its success, and some were fired due to a lack of progress.
As the NYT’s Tripp Mickle and Brian Chen reported, five years ago a meeting of a hundred executives about the mixed-reality device began with a commercial in which a man in a London cab put on a headset and called his wife in San Francisco and invited her to join him. A little later, they shared their impressions of London, which they looked at through the eyes of a man.
Then there were many impressions from the gadget. Today there is more skepticism. But it seems that Tim Cook still has enough faith in the project. Last year, at a meeting with students at the university of Naples Federico II, the CEO of Apple said the following:
You’ll wonder how you lived your life without augmented reality. Just like today, we wonder, how did people like me grow up without the internet.
Like the Apple Watch, the mixed reality headset will be refined and usage options will be formed “in production”. The first version of the “smart” watch also seemed expensive and in many cases not so necessary. But over time, Apple Watch found a place in the lives of many users, fixed bugs, and received different price offers in the line. A similar path is planned for the new headset.
However, to find out exactly what tricks the company has prepared for the presentation, we have to wait less and less. And let’s hope that by that time engineers will have time to deal with technological obstacles, and third-party developers will have enough work on applications and content. Otherwise, we could witness a loud and very expensive failure.