The apple in our eyes.
Apple’s rumours of entering the VR arena finally stopped being rumours. The Vision Pro is a headset that allows us to swim in spatial awareness. Rejoice! By all accounts the technology is cutting edge. It’s got multi-camera setup, accurate as hell hand tracking and 4k resolution - all the things. It’s the best VR headset there is.
Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, they coming for the TV.
Based off Apple’s keynote, the Vision isn’t about the ‘metaverse’ or VR at all. Instead, the word ‘spatial’ computing was used instead of meta or virtual reality. In the 9 minute keynote video, Apple spent most of the time focusing on how Vision can be a really big screen to watch stuff on. Any demonstrations of working, playing or being social were light and not overly in-depth. The one big takeaway? Apple doesn’t think you’ll need a TV if you have the Vision.
Pictured: a digital creep of a man.
Where’s the Apps?
During the presentation something stood out as a big red flag: a severe lack of a killer appThe Vision can make a really big screen, the spatial stuff is great, and the hand gesturing interactions are really cool. But the suite of apps that come with VisionOS are ports of what’s already on our phones, tablets, and laptops, albeit optimised for the VisionOS. But, where’s THE app that’s going to make us rush out and buy this thing? What’s it able to do that we aren’t already doing? Where’s its VisiCalc?
John Markoff wrote that the computer was sold as a "VisiCalc accessory",and many bought $2,000 (equivalent to $8,100 in 2022) Apple computers to run the $100 software — more than 25% of those sold in 1979 were reportedly for VisiCalc — even if they already owned other computers. Steve Wozniak said that small businesses, not the hobbyists he and Steve Jobs had expected, purchased 90% of Apple IIs. Apple's rival Tandy Corporation used VisiCalc on Apple IIs at their headquarters
Here’s the rub - The Vision looks awesome as technological thing. There’s just no obvious reason to buy one. And if there’s no reason for consumers to buy it, then why take the risk to create an app for it in the first place? Porting over existing apps that we already have isn’t going to cut it for the customer. It’s a vicious cycle. The hardware needs apps, but the apps need the customers to sell…
The reason to buy and use apps on the Vision needs to be utterly compelling. ********Sitting alone in a room and rewatching videos of kids isn’t compelling. Doing a slideshow in 3D isn’t compelling. Recording your child’s birthday party is not just socially awkward, it’s downright dystopian. And not compelling. Compelling is something that the price, comfort, limited battery-life, and hassle of putting it off and on again can be overcome. The meditation app isn’t it - this isn’t Black Mirror, Tim.
Apple’s expectations: low
Creating a hardware platform and hoping developers make it into something worthwhile only works if:
a) the developers believe the market is lucrative or big enough to handle it
b) the thing is going to be around in the medium to long term
Apple estimate they will ship 150,000 units. At the price point of $5000 AUD the total forecasted revenue from Vision Pro equates to a trivial .0002% compared to Apple’s total revenue from ‘22.
The total market is pretty tiny, even by early-adopter standards. And the overall revenue Apple will generate will be very, very small. Will Apple stick it out in the long term?
The biggest hurdle is that the apps on offer are extensions of what is already possible with all our other devices. That may be a benefit, technically speaking, but it echos an issue we see overall: if the same app can be transferred across to this device, what’s the device doing better than our existing solutions?
What’s a screen, anyway?
One unexplored area is how spatial computing challenges the notion of what a ‘screen’ is. For the last 70 years, rectangles and squares have been the paradigm for how we consume, interact and socialise digitally. Spatial computing challenges this, and maybe this is the vector of where, finally, headsets play a role. Our computing monitors are not social devices. We interact with them on a 1 to 1 basis, seldom sharing the screen unless invited in. Like the tablet. Like the phone. The Apple could extend this idea and bring it about to our entire vision. Is this what we want? Time will tell.