Bold Leap into Mixed Reality Space?

Bold Leap into Mixed Reality Space?

The Gist

  • Risky venture. Apple’s leap into unperfected Reality Pro space.
  • High price. Apple’s $2K to $3K high-end bet on bulky XR glasses. 
  • Developer dependence. Apple banks on developers to propel mixed Reality Pro.

Today, Tim Cook will take the stage at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference and introduce his company’s long-awaited mixed reality device. The Reality Pro, as it’s called, will seem extremely impressive at first. Its 4K resolution, 5,000+ nits of brightness, array of cameras and innovative stare-and-pinch controls will send the room into a tizzy. And Cook, who needs this to work, will urge developers to partner with Apple, perhaps pointing to the apps that made the iPhone great.

Apple’s Leap Into Unperfected Reality Pro Space

Yet while the introduction will resemble Apple’s previous category-defining moments, the Reality Pro will be much different and riskier. The headset is reportedly far from the one Apple set out to build. Rather than perfecting an existing category — as it did with phones, watches and headphones — it’s simply nudging mixed reality forward, capitulating to some of the same technical limitations holding back its peers. For a company accustomed to waiting until its product is just right, it’s a perilous move.

“This could be a mess the likes of which we haven’t seen since Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997,” Michael Gartenberg, an ex-Apple executive, told me. “Quality materials, beautiful design, and an Apple logo still don’t seem to provide a reason why consumers would want this.”

Related Article: Transformative Lessons: My Growth in Customer Experience During Steve Jobs’ Era at Apple

Apple’s $2K to $3K High-End Bet on Bulky XR Glasses

Priced somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000, the Reality Pro is a downgrade from what Apple initially imagined as a pair of lightweight, standalone augmented reality (AR) glasses. The current device is “a headset that resembles a pair of ski goggles and requires a separate battery pack,” according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. (Gurman will appear on Big Technology Podcast next week.) 

Apple’s bulkier version of its extended reality (XR) glasses will thus look like its peers in the space — making it something of a high-end version of Meta’s Quest 3 — and it won’t feel like the step change Apple typically delivers. That could be a hindrance in a category that hasn’t yet gained mass adoption.

Related Article: How Augmented Reality Will Impact Marketing in the Multiverse

Technological Limitations Halt Dream of Light AR Glasses

Historically, Apple’s succeeded by pushing existing product categories well into the future. The iPod, Mac, iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch are all products of Apple management’s insistence that technological limitations are often artificial, and its engineers’ ability to prove them right. Yet that ended up impossible with the Reality Pro.

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