My AR/VR (XR?) hot take

The WWDC23 keynote happens tomorrow and everyone is talking about Apple’s headset, which is probably a virtual reality device, might include augmented reality, but definitely is a real thing and as always, Apple (and the press/tech blog sphere who makes money reporting on Apple) thinks you’re going to love it.

My guess (and I’m happy to be proven wrong, always) is much like the rumored “Apple car”, this is not a thing that exists and won’t be demoed tomorrow. Or at least I’m very sure a VR headset won’t be shown tomorrow. Why?

  • I could not be more Apple’s target market: there’s Apple TVs here, Apple Watches, iPads, iPhones, MacBooks, AirPods, we subscribe to iCloud Super Plus Turbo Arcade edition, but there’s no feature set on Earth that could get me to buy a VR headset. Are they trying to invent a new market? Maybe, but the general trend of Apple recently has been continuing to extract value out of the fact that they sold 20 billion iPhones, via services, not new hardware. Even the Apple Watch is primarily a way to get people to use their iPhones more.
  • Beyond marketing to just me, I struggle to imagine an Apple conference or future ones where Apple talks about their new watch and the features it has for people doing deep sea diving, and their new phone and how it helps connect you with your family, then jumps to Memojis in virtual-space. Meta (née Facebook) has become an actual joke running with this idea, I don’t believe it’s just an experience issue that Apple is the one to solve.
  • Current VR platforms are heavily invested in gaming, and have a lot of overlap with the gaming industry. Of the tech companies that are strongly aligned with the gaming industry… you would not name Apple first, and they might not even be in the top ten.

That last point is where I might be incredibly wrong, however. The developer of “No Man’s Sky” has made not just one but two hints at the game coming to Apple VR. But one game isn’t going to move these, and a heavy bias towards gaming makes it seem less likely to be an AR device. If something does get demoed tomorrow, I would believe it is about improving the gaming/graphic capabilities and developer experience on Apple’s platforms with an emphasis on using the iPad as a gaming and AR platform. The M1/M2 iPad Pros have a lot of capability in a portable device that’s barely being used today.

We’ll find out tomorrow. Personally I’m hoping for an update to Music that makes the play button play music more than 50% of the time. Maybe just make the existing world work a bit better before jumping off into new ones.

Tagged: hardware