When Apple announced the $3,500 price tag for its augmented reality Vision Pro headset yesterday, attendants at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference let out a collective groan. This reaction was mirrored on Twitter, where commentators commonly expressed bafflement at the high price, or made unflattering comparisons to failed products like Google Glass.
But as the media posted hands-on impressions and takes, more sober analyses began to filter through. A consensus is beginning to take shape – that Apple is uninterested in competing in today’s somewhat lackluster drive to mass market adoption of VR and AR devices, but instead wants to set the agenda for the future.
The company’s goal is to create a high-end product that will be taken up by early adopters, whose usage patterns will teach many lessons. Developers will experiment and innovate. Either prices will come down, or, the high-end AR market will remain elite, just as it is for high-end computers, like the Mac Pro
This is a long way from Meta’s struggle to keep the price of its Quest series as low as possible in an attempt to create critical mass; a strategy that has yet to yield a market size large enough to enrich or even sustain a deep development community.
Anyway, I trawled through dozens of articles and hundreds of tweets about Vision Pro. Here are some of the highlights.
“Apple has clearly solved a bunch of big hardware interaction problems with VR headsets, mostly by out-engineering and out-spending everyone else that’s tried. But it has emphatically not really answered the question of what these things are really for yet.” – The Verge
“Apple’s ‘what’s it good for’ answer boils down to: This is an improved reality, not some other-world ‘metaverse’. Apple showed people using the device while interacting with family members, walking around an office and lying in bed looking at stars. – The Washington Post
“It isn’t unusual for new products to take time to take off. Apple’s past hits mostly took several years before they really caught on. Sales of the Apple Watch were low until people decided that its key use was for monitoring their health. The iPhone didn’t really take off until its fourth generation, in 2010, by which time the App Store was populated with thousands of apps that made people realize what the phone could do.” – The Economist
“Apple is Apple, and it has repeatedly demonstrated that it can, through sheer force of will, turn a niche product for nerds into a thing that everyone wants.” – The New York Times
“Probably 75% of what Apple showed me was essentially just floating screens. Whether it was videos or a floating iMessage app or the web browser, it’s clear that Apple wants Vision Pro to be first and foremost be great at displaying flat content to the user.” – RoadtoVR
“While the Vision Pro looks a bit like existing VR headsets, this is first and foremost an augmented reality device. That puts it in the same category as Microsoft’s Hololens 2, which launched for developers at $3,500 in 2019, or the Magic Leap 2, which launched for $3,299 last year.” – Ars Technica
“If you have tried the Apple headset out and been disappointed, let’s talk please. I just tested it and was WOWED. To an embarrassing degree I was excited and didn’t want to put it away ” – Financial Times correspondent Patrick McGree, on Twitter
“Apple’s biggest product launch in more than a decade – maybe its biggest launch since the iPhone – is a pair of goggles. If they didn’t have a power cord attached to them, you might mistake them for something you’d see on a ski slope.” – Vox
“After spending 30 minutes with the Vision Pro, my reaction is more tempered than that excitable attendee. It’s undoubtedly the best mixed reality (VR/AR) experience I’ve had yet, delivering an unparalleled sense of immersion, with displays sharp enough to read text on websites, plus an intuitive gesture-based user interface. And yet, it’s still just a VR headset, with many of the issues endemic to the entire category.”- Engadget
“Apple’s headset is both experimental and expensive. The same was true for many other eventually successful devices, including the iPhone, but those technologies were opening up new spaces, whereas Apple is entering well-trod ground where others have failed.” – Lee Vinsel, a historian of technology at Virginia Tech, via New Scientist
“Regardless of how it works and if it works, for the past 10 years human beings have loudly and repeatedly told the big brains of Silicon Valley they don’t want to put computers on their face.” – Cnet
“5,000 patents filed over the past few years and an enormous base of talent and capital to work with. Every bit of this thing shows Apple-level ambition. I don’t know whether it will be the ‘next computing mode’, but you can see the conviction behind each of the choices made here. No corners cut. Full-tilt engineering on display.” – TechCrunch
“There’s little reason to get mad at the Vision Pro’s exorbitantly high price tag. The Vision Pro is a technology showcase, a device that shows the world what can be done with AR when you have a lot of research and development money to spend (Apple says it filed over 5,000 patents related to the Vision Pro). The actual Apple headset that us common folks should even consider buying is the one that comes after the Vision Pro.” – Mashable
“Apple entering XR is as much of a tell that the category has begun as the $4k bill (including tax) for its MVP release tells you the category remains a ways out, too.” – Metaverse blogger and author Matthew Ball