Apple’s long-awaited mixed reality headset looks increasingly likely to launch this year, but a new report suggests a difficult development process that echoes a classic Apple product with a mixed reputation.
The Financial Times (opens in a new tab) suggests that Apple CEO Tim Cook has decided to “debut this year” a mixed reality headset, which apparently looks like a pair of lightweight ski goggles, and will combine both AR and VR experiences .
In making this decision, however, Cook apparently “overruled Apple’s designers’ early objections to waiting for technology to catch up with their vision.” Since the Apple virtual reality headset Now apparently seven years in the making and expected to “cost around $3,000”, it’s hard not to hear this speculation and think of the Apple Newton.
A little over 30 years ago, in May 1992, Apple announced a rather revolutionary product called Newton MessagePad, which ushered in a new mobile computing platform called PDA (or Personal Digital Assistant). The Newton had also been in development for six years, mired in internal disputes, and was prohibitively expensive at launch (costing $900, or around $1,860 / £1,540 / AU$2,400 at today’s prices). today).
Of course, we have no way of knowing if Apple’s headset fortune – rumored to be called the Apple Reality Pro – might eventually follow the same path as the Newton, which was discontinued in 1997. Apple will certainly do everything to make sure it doesn’t, including launching “a marketing blitz for the new product” (according to the Financial Times).
But the similarities don’t end there – the FT also says Tim Cook is betting on the headset “to secure his legacy”, as it is the “first new computing platform to have been developed entirely under his direction”.
Likewise, by the late 1980s, Apple CEO John Sculley — whose board struggle with Steve Jobs saw the latter acrimoniously quit the company — had stabilized Apple and made it back again. profitable in the same way as Tim Cook, but was looking for an innovative launch. that would define the future of computing.
Like the Newton, Apple’s mixed reality headset will be built around innovative new input systems, if the rumors are correct. The Newton’s particular talent was its handwriting recognition software, which ultimately laid the foundation for the iPhone. And according to Bloomberg, owners of Apple’s AR/VR device interact with with hands and eyes.
But initially it seems like the helmet we are set to be unveiled at WWDC 2023 in June, will be strictly reserved for first-time well-heeled users. According to the FT, Apple “expects to sell only around one million units of its headphones in its first 12 months”, less than the equivalent sales of the iPhone or Apple Watch over the course of the year. of their first year.
Analysis: A reality check for Apple’s headphones
Apple’s mixed reality headset may ultimately turn out to be more of an iPhone-sized hit than a cursed Apple Newton, but these reports of a troubled development process only add to the similarities between the devices. .
The Financial Times points out that early versions of new Apple products aren’t usually big sellers, and that was especially the case for the original Apple iPhone and Apple iPod. The latter sold less than five million units in total, putting into perspective Apple’s first-year sales forecast of one million units for the AR/VR headset in its first year.
But none of Apple’s previous game changers this century – the iPhone, Apple Watch, Airpods and iPod – have had a price tag as high as the rumored $3,000 headphones. incoming from Apple. If that’s the price, or close to it, it’s likely to be a first-gen product whose ultimate goal is to plant a flag for a truly mainstream gadget.
When the Newton finally arrived in 1993 – more than a year after its first public demo – it was technologically impressive, but its key features, like handwriting recognition, didn’t work well enough out of the box. Hence his famous appearance in The simpsons (opens in a new tab)when Dolph wrote a note on the Newton for “Beat Martin”, which he duly translated as “Eat Martha”.
Clearly, Apple’s incoming headphones will have to do a better job of living up to the massive hype that’s been building over the past few years. We can finally get two more Apple AR/VR headsets in 2025, according to respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, including a much-needed cheaper model. And these could possibly lead to the apple glasseswhich the FT says could “take several more years” according to “most people in the tech industry”.
But the first device in Apple’s xrOS extended reality platform will have to avoid Newton’s pitfalls if it’s Apple’s next big hit.