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Apple takes a humble approach to launching its latest device

Apple takes a humble approach to launching its latest device

When Apple released the Apple Watch in 2015, it was business as usual for the company whose iPhone updates had become cultural touchstones. Before the watch went on sale, Apple gave away early versions of it Celebrities like BeyonceIt was displayed in Fashion publications like Vogue And streamed a spectacular show on the internet boasting its features.

But as Apple prepares to sell its next generation of wearable computing, the Vision Pro augmented reality device, it is moving far more quietly into the consumer market.

the company said A news release this month The sale of the device will start from Friday. There will be no major product event, although Apple has created an engaging ad about the device and offered personal demonstrations of it to tech reviewers. And in a departure for the secretive company, the Vision Pro has been tested with more developers than previous Apple products to see what they like and don't like about it.

The softening of the marketing strategy reflects the challenges facing Apple, a company that has grown so big over the past few years that new product lines that could one day be worth billions of dollars are still only a fraction of iPhone sales. , which was above $200 billion last year.

Apple's low-key approach to the Vision Pro also speaks to the challenges associated with selling a device that may still be years away from attracting mainstream consumers. In addition to explaining what the Vision Pro can do — as it does with every new device — Apple has to overcome its high price of $3,500, as well as low interest in augmented reality gadgets that blend the digital and physical worlds. will be. Another challenge: The three-dimensional experience provided by the device can only really be understood through demonstrations.

Apple's solution is to take it slow and generate interest with developers who can create apps that work with Vision Pro. Hopefully, after reducing the price and improving the technology, the company will introduce this device to more mainstream customers.

Analysts expect Apple to sell about 400,000 units of the Vision Pro this year. On the contrary, the company An estimated 12 million Apple Watches were sold In 2015, analysts said.

“Apple knows this product is not ready for the masses,” said Gene Munster, managing partner of tech investment and research firm Deepwater Asset Management. “It would be off target for them to make a big splash.”

Apple declined to comment.

Vision Pro has been nearly a decade in the making and cost billions of dollars to develop. The device, which looks like ski goggles, uses cameras and sensors to track people's eye and hand movements as they interact with three-dimensional digital objects, such as apps and computer screens, on the headset's display. Are. It can also record three-dimensional video and play movies on a screen as large as a movie theater.

“This is the first Apple product that you look at and don't look at,” Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said during the product's introduction in June.

But augmented reality devices have struggled to reach consumers. Last year, the tech industry sold 8.1 million augmented reality headsets, down 8.3 percent from the previous year. According to IDC, a market research firm. Since jumping into the market in 2014, Facebook's parent company Meta has been selling Oculus and Quest headsets for video games and virtual meetings. Sony, Microsoft and Finnish company Varjo also have augmented reality devices.

Apple has tried to set its devices apart from competitors who have described their products as gateways to the metaverse. Instead of using the term, which Neal Stephenson coined in the 1992 novel “Snow Crash,” Apple is calling its augmented reality experience “spatial computing.”

In its headset guidelines, Apple asked developers To refer to the apps they create not as virtual reality or augmented reality products but as spatial computing apps.

Chief executive Grant Anderson said, “They maintain complete control.” mirrorscapeCreator of augmented reality apps for tabletop games.

Since the unveiling in June, Apple has contacted developers it hopes will create apps for the device. It created testing labs around the world where developers could try out the product.

In August, Christian Diaz, an engineer at MonstarLab, visited a Vision Pro lab in Munich. After passing through a secret door marked with the Apple logo, he joined several other developers, each of whom was fitted with a headset and given six hours to test their apps and write code into the system. Was.

Mr. Diaz said Apple engineers had asked developers for feedback on the device, including information on how the software and development tools work. He took notes. When Mr. Diaz returned for a second lab experience in London in September, he said, it was clear that Apple had made improvements based on the feedback.

Among the changes, Apple made it possible for its engineers to see what developers are doing inside the headset by connecting to Apple's wireless communications tool, AirPlay, Mr. Diaz said. This allowed engineers to assist developers in solving problems while working on their apps.

“We were like animals in a laboratory,” said Mr. Diaz, who called Vision Pro “a great experience.”

This approach was somewhat of a departure for Apple. Under its co-founder Steve Jobs, the company largely avoided creating focus groups for its products because he believed Apple's job was to find out what customers wanted before they even knew it. .

Mr. Cook is more open to seeking feedback, said Philip Shoemaker, who worked at Apple for seven years and led its App Store. Under both Mr. Jobs and Mr. Cook, Apple tested its iPad and Watch products with select developers in Cupertino, California. But with Vision Pro, the company took an unreleased product to foreign developers for the first time.

“Of all the products to do this, a headset makes sense because a headset is volatile,” said Mr. Shoemaker, executive director of Identity.com, an identity-verification nonprofit. “They are not suitable for everyone.”

In addition to inviting developers, Apple has worked with entertainment companies to outfit Vision Pro with TV shows, movies, music, and games. Disney has made it possible to watch movies from the theater in its streaming app on the device, and Alicia Keys recorded an intimate performance in an immersive, three-dimensional video.

The content experience will be key to broadening the device's appeal, said Carolina Milanesi, technology analyst at Creative Strategies. He said because headsets disconnect people from the world, Apple needs to give people a reason to spend time on them.

To increase consumer interest, Apple is running an advertisement on national television. The spot shows clips from famous movies People who have worn the headset include Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars” and Doc Brown from “Back to the Future.” It concludes with a woman pulling out a Vision Pro.

Advertisement reminds of Original iPhone Ads In which TV and movie clips were shown of people answering phones, such as Lucille Ball in “I Love Lucy”.

Apple is running Vision Pro ads during National Football League games, according to iSpot.tv, which measures ad spending. Apple spent $6.4 million on the spot during the second week of January. By comparison, it spent $9.3 million an iPhone ad In the first week after the release of the iPhone 15 last September.

“Is this a product that will be ubiquitous? No,” Ms. Milanesi said. “This is going to be a product that will take time.”

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