A new report on the upcoming Apple Reality Pro AR / VR headset says that the device is significantly compromised, compared to the company’s original vision for the device.
She also says that some senior Apple executives are skeptical about the product’s potential and turning away from it. The report said — based on multiple sources close to the project — that Apple would sell it at roughly cost, as opposed to the high margins you’d expect from other products…
Reality Pro headset vs. Apple Glasses
It’s an open secret that Apple is working on two very different augmented reality products: the Reality Pro headset, which combines AR and VR in a fully sealed enclosure, and the Apple Glasses, a lightweight, unobtrusive device that looks a lot like regular glasses.
But Mark Gorman bloomberg The report indicates that Apple CEO Tim Cook really wanted to prioritize Apple’s glasses, while development work instead focused more and more on the headset.
The device Cook will be introducing has, say people familiar with the seven-year development process, veering far from his initial vision. Initially envisioned as an unobtrusive pair of glasses that can be worn all day, the Apple device has transformed into a headset that looks like a pair of ski goggles and requires a separate battery pack. […]
Having initially set its sights on a lightweight pair of augmented reality glasses, Apple gradually drifted toward something that looked more like existing hardware due to technological limitations, a desire to get a product to market, and internal disagreements.
There are even doubts about whether Apple’s glasses will be launched or not. Only about 10% of Reality Pro’s resources were spent on the Glasses project, codenamed N421.
In the end, Apple has delayed any serious product development on standalone glasses for years, all but a killer idea, according to people involved in the process. They say Apple is at least four years away from offering any such product, if at all. […]
Someone on the project describes a running joke that engineers were working on the desperate N421 just to keep Cook happy. By 2019, the company had made little or no progress developing a viable plan for making augmented reality glasses.
Significant compromises were required for Reality Pro
Insiders say that as time went on, more and more compromises had to be made to make even a Reality Pro device possible.
The product design is also a tacit acknowledgment that the company, like other companies that have made mixed reality headsets, hasn’t been able to solve some fundamental technological problems. Features like the ability to act as an external monitor for Macs and make multi-person video calls are less advanced than the company initially intended, though it hopes to improve them. Apple also wanted to integrate the battery into the headset, according to people familiar with the project. But to reduce weight and keep the device from heating up, it made a design compromise that wasn’t quite Apple-like: it redesigned the battery as an iPhone-sized pack that fits in a user’s pocket, attached to a power cord.
This is very different from Apple’s usual approach, which is to stay out of the new market until you can produce the product you really want.
Apple sells them at cost; I thought of taking the loss
Another thing Apple doesn’t widely like is that the company plans to sell Reality Pro at break-even cost. This is in stark contrast to the typical 37% margin the company would like to achieve.
In fact, Gorman says, the company even discussed the possibility of selling it initially at a loss, in order to gain market share.
The development cost is $1 billion a year
It’s not likely that the development costs of the headset will be recouped anytime soon anyway. The report indicates that the budget exceeds one billion dollars annually, and more than a thousand engineers work on it.
skeptical senior executives; Cook without interference
Both Craig Federighi and Johnny Srugi are said to be skeptical of the device.
Key figures in Apple’s upper ranks, such as Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, also kept their distance and seemed wary of a headset, according to people familiar with the project. Johnny Srugi, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, was particularly skeptical, likening it to a science project.
Tim Cook has also been described as “away” from the project – frustrating the team by taking time to make decisions.
“The closest a cook gets to product development is a demo,” says one person. “But even then, he’s not the kind of guy who says he has to do X and not Y. He’s quite the opposite of Steve in that he has strong opinions about the details.” […]
His approach was sometimes seen as indecisive, leading to delays and concerns about obtaining adequate resources. “Tim didn’t throw his weight around the project at all, and that frustrated people,” says another person who was working on the project.
The whole piece is worth a read.
We expect Apple to officially announce the Reality Pro headset during the keynote at WWDC next month.
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