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Why I can’t bet against Apple’s Vision Pro

I’ll admit that when Apple started it Mixed-reality Vision Pro headset on MondayOne of my first thoughts was: Man, that thing looks weird.

I was not alone. On social media, the reaction to Vision Pro was less than kind. Skeptics scoffed at the device’s snowboard-goggle-like appearance, its steep price ($3,500) and Apple’s lofty pitch about the “spatial computing” era its arrival heralded. Robot WALL-E and Twitter memes about people viewing pornography in virtual reality were compared.

I understood. I’ve been a virtual reality skeptic for years, and I’ve been thinking for a long time Why the technology hasn’t become mainstream, even if the quality of the headset has improved. I was always suspicious of Mark Zuckerberg’s pitch for the Metaverse, which had more “personal triumph” vibes than “real market demand” vibes. And if you’d asked me before Monday’s announcement whether I thought Apple’s mixed-reality headset signaled the start of a huge, earth-shaking platform shift in the wake of the original iPhone’s arrival, I would not have said.

But after seeing Apple demonstrate the Vision Pro on Monday — reading more usually Positive Review people who have tested it – now i think to be able A big deal, and possibly even the first sign of a revolutionary new computing platform.

There are many reasons why the Vision Pro flopped. It can be too expensive, too ugly, too isolating. Convincing developers to make good, useful smartphone apps is easier than convincing them to make an app for the device you have to strap to your head, for an audience that will never really scale meaningfully. Has not materialized. And Apple may be finding what Meta has found so far in productivity-based VR apps — that there just aren’t many people in the world interested in reading their email in VR.

But I can’t rule out the possibility that despite its limitations — like the need to carry around a connected battery pack — the Vision Pro could be a hit.

Is it expensive? Yes. but it is lots of first generation gadgetsAnd the “Pro” in the name suggests that a less expensive, more consumer-oriented model may be on the way.

Is it fun to use and effective? Early testers seem to think so, although they haven’t had much time with it, and are a pretty excited bunch. The real test will be when the devices are actually shipped to users (early next year, according to Apple) and people start working them into their daily routines.

Part of my open-mindedness toward the Vision Pro is, I admit, due to a kind of tech columnist PTSD in 2013, before the first Apple Watch was released, i wrote a column Confidently declaring that smartwatches were a dumb idea. I mocked their looks, dismissed them as expensive toys, and I boldly declared that Apple would be insane to invest heavily in a product category that I couldn’t imagine young, moneyed silicon echo beyond the valley. (Apple is now the No. 1 watch brand in the world, and it sells an estimated 40 million Watches each year. I wear one, as do many of my friends and relatives.)

Obviously, my Apple Watch prediction was horribly, comically wrong for a few reasons.

First, I underestimated Apple’s ability to expand the market, turning a niche product category into a mainstream one. In 2013, there were other smartwatches on the market, and none of them were big hits, so I came to the conclusion that the Apple Watch wouldn’t be a huge hit. I looked at the bulky, ugly aesthetics of existing smartwatches and concluded that people who were willing to wear them on their wrists every day — nerds like me — weren’t a big enough market to matter.

But I don’t remember that Apple is AppleAnd it has demonstrated time and time again that it can, by sheer force of will, turn a niche product for idiots into something everyone wants.

This is a testimony to the renowned product and marketing prowess of the company. And that’s part of why I’m reluctant to dismiss the Vision Pro’s potential.

Sure, there are cool virtual and mixed-reality headsets out there, and even some good apps For them. But those headsets aren’t made by Apple, and they haven’t been integrated seamlessly into the entire Apple ecosystem the way the Vision Pro will be. Integrating all your iPhone contacts, iMessages and iOS settings into one mixed-reality headset from the moment you turn it on could mean the difference between the device you actually use every day , and a novelty toy that you throw in a closet after a few weeks.

Another error I made with the Apple Watch in 2013 is that I forgot that human behavior is not fixed, and that our ideas of what is considered fashionable and socially acceptable change all the time in response to new technologies. .

Back then, part of what I was reacting to was a social norm. At the time, it was probably considered rude to look at your watch during a meeting, or while having dinner with your family. But a decade later, that action no longer registers (to me, at least) as inappropriate, because so many people now have Apple Watches that many have developed new norms around it. Now, we recognize that people who check their watches at dinner are probably trying to avoid pulling out their phones, which would be rude and more disruptive. In other words, mass adoption broke the taboo.

Now the same thing can happen with mixed-reality headsets. Sure, you might feel self-conscious putting on a Vision Pro today. But a few years from now, if a third of your coworkers are joining Zoom calls with their headsets on, and you see people watching VR movies on every flight you take, it might not seem so silly.

Apple has the ability to enter the product category at the right time. The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone in 2007, or even the first touch-screen smartphone. The iPad wasn’t the first tablet. But in both cases, the company brought excitement and sex appeal to the products that weren’t there before. Apple let other companies make some costly mistakes, and it focused on making a good product.

The same thing can happen with Apple and Vision Pro. Meta, Magic Leap and other companies have invested billions of dollars in basic research and development for virtual and mixed reality headsets, learning from the failures of older devices like Google Glass. They have improved many components of the device, and the actual headsets are now much more attractive. But he has not found any major commercial success.

This may be because virtual and augmented reality are fundamentally bad ideas, and the market for these devices is bound to remain small. But it may be just what Apple needed to come to the market. A few years from now, if you’re reading this on your Vision Pro, or in an Apple device connected directly to your Cornea, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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