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At least as far back as 2019, I have been saying, “All of Apple’s money won’t buy them different physics.” Now we have a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman that Apple’s AR product has been delayed indefinitely. The story is behind Bloomberg’s paywall, but you can get the gist of the story from several sources, including MacRumors.
Of course, all of this is just rumors, and as one business analyst told me, “don’t you think Apple, with all its resources, knows who is leaking to the press?” The analyst went on to explain that Apple knows who is leaking and to whom and that Apple is also planting stories.
The article states that Apple will concentrate on its Mixed Realty VR with Camera Passthrough devices that will start with a $3,000 headset in 2023 to be followed up in 2024 or 2025 with a cheaper ~$1,500 headset.
The “concentrate on VR” almost sounds good, but the whole reason for Meta and Apple to be doing VR with a “bag on the side” MR Passthrough is a stepping stone to Augmented Reality. It looks like the whole reason to do the VR/MR devices has been pushed into oblivion.
To the Tech Giants of Meta and Apple, the size of the VR market does not “send a thrill up the leg” of Mark Zuckerberg or Tim Cook. While the VR market has a significant number of dedicated followers, it is minuscule compared to the cell phone market. The common belief is that it will always be a fraction of the game market. On the other hand, cell phones are a “4 corners market” with children, teenagers, adults, and seniors. In contrast, VR primarily serves teenagers, young adults, and mostly males (pejoratively, “young males in their basement”).
As I wrote in 2020 in Magic Leap Starts to Auger-In with ~3.7X the Money as Theranos – I Tried to Warn Everyone the AR market was driven by Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) and the sequence of events:
In 2012 Google Glass was introduced, Facebook buys Oculus for $2B in March 2014, and then in September 2014, Microsoft goes public with Hololens (but does not ship until 2016). Some of the people at Google that were excited about AR decided to play for them a small bet of $500M (petty cash for Google) on Magic Leap. With Google investing but doing little due diligence, a series of lemming investors followed. There was a lot of industry hype that AR was the next big thing after cell phones and the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) was running strong.
It could be that the VR headset was too far along to be pulled back, and the powers that be at Apple may have decided that they might as well test out the market. Or maybe Apple is just playing with Gurman, and the AR indefinite delay is a head fake or trying to mislead Meta.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has been saying since 2016 that Apple with have an AR headset in a few years. The Reddit Group AR_MR_XR moderator compiled the list below.
Apple would almost have ultimate deniability whether the rumors are true or false because it didn’t come from them — Except — Tim Cook has been saying that Apple has been making big investments in their great AR technology for years. In September 2021, both the Verge and TechGig compiled lists of times when Tim Cook promoted a future AR Headset from Apple going back to 2016.
The latest time I could find that Tim Cook was quoted in support of AR was in September 2022 in the Dutch publication Bright.
In addition to my 2019 article, Saying “Moore’s Law or Apple” Does Not Make AR a Consumer Product, I have written about Apple and Tim Cook concerning Augmented Reality. Many times and places, I have written or said, “Apple Doesn’t Get Different Physics,” and that I didn’t think Tim Cook was a “true believer” in AR in the way that
My most complete rambling about Apple’s AR and Tim Cook was on The AR Show Podcast in April 2021. I had a similar discussion about Meta and Apple/Tim Cook on SadlyItsBradley’s YouTube channel in June 2022. Overall, I think Mark Zuckerberg is a “true believer” in AR, whereas Tim Cook is more of a businessman/politician who has been told to believe in AR.
I have mixed feelings about the news/rumors about Apple. To a degree, it vindicates what I have been saying and writing for years. But it is also likely to make it tougher for those doing good work in AR. While the tech giants duke it out with each other by buying up technology, other companies become collateral damage.
I’m also often reminded by an investor that once told me, “There is a lot more money in being optimistic.” Many people get paid a lot for telling the tech giants what they want to hear. There is much less money in pointing out all the flaws in the strategy.
In the end, I believe that Apple will ultimately end up buying an AR company for their patents & who are also making clear strides with the technology and build upon from there. Yes, they purchased Akonia and others, but someone I know in the industry has told me that Apple has come to a point where even they themselves can not get the tech to where it needs to be for successful AR glasses.
Keep in mind, and this is in regards to waveguides, that sometimes it’s not the best display image waveguide that will win (although that’s is certainly very important), but the one that offers the most scalability at cost effective prices. That’s why as amazing as reflective waveguides are, I just don’t see them getting to a point where it becomes cost effective for consumer mass adoption, except for maybe specific niche products. Diffractive waveguides have their shortcomings as well, but it seems like those companies are a bit further ahead with improving those shortcomings. Companies like Dispelix, Digilense, and even Vuzix seem to be making great progress in that regard. Vuzix in particular seem to be steeping their toe’s on the consumer side.
As usual, great read Karl!
I wouldn’t put muck stock in this ‘news’ either way. Gurman, like Kuo , is what is referred to as a useful idiot. Apple lets them have nuggets of truth, and complete disinformation, as suits Apples needs. Dozens of other media outlets then report it as news. Even economists and climatologists are right more often than Apple leakers.
> In contrast, VR primarily serves teenagers, young adults, and mostly males (pejoratively, “young males in their basement”).
Agreed, at the current time. And likely for the foreseeable future. However, let me pretend assume for a moment that VR does grow. So i ask myself
– could a refined VR headset find a larger role in productive work than it does today? If so, what refinements (lighter, cheaper, sharper etc) would be necessary, and in what jobs or sectors could VR actually useful.
-Ergonomics, since the user’s posture isn’t encouraged to stay static when wearing a display as opposed to sitting at a monitor.
– ignoring your surroundings in order to concentrate on your work.
– Architecture, theatrical set design etc.
– Therapeutic applications of VR, aid to meditation etc.
Okay, these may not be “killer applications”, but they are in areas of self-care, the arts, that are less associated with the ‘young male in basement’ market and image. They are areas that appeal more broadly, and ones Apple has judiciously associated itself with. A VR headset that isn’t pitched as primarily a gaming device.
Of course Apple’s shareholders want a new product (category) that can sell in iPhone numbers and that new product is extremely unlikely to be a VR headset. Magic spectacles would fit the bill, if only physics allowed!