Apple's mixed reality headset: I don't believe it until I see it
It could finally happen at WWDC 2023: Apple might reveal its first XR hardware. But as has often been the case, things could turn out differently.
For years, rumors have swirled about Apple's mixed reality headset, which has been in development for a long time and has reportedly been delayed many times.
However, there are many indications that this could indeed be the case soon. For example, we have heard from the same sources as before that mass production of the device has started, that Tim Cook brought about the decision to unveil the headset this year, and that it was presented at a secret meeting of Apple executives. All signs point to an imminent unveiling.
The next likely date is Apple's developer conference, which we learned yesterday will kick off with a keynote on June 5, 2023. According to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, who has been feeding rumors about Apple's XR headset for years, the unveiling is expected to take place at WWDC.
The industry needs a breath of fresh air
It would be a moment that I and many other XR enthusiasts have eagerly awaited, and because we've waited so long in vain, it would seem downright unreal.
When Apple introduces a new product, let alone a whole new product category, the world listens. VR and AR would be back in the spotlight and, at best, gain new credibility as a computing platform. Mark Zuckerberg's bold Metaverse bet would finally be validated from the outside, and other companies would have to follow suit. The result would be a new momentum for the industry.
But that's not even the most important thing to me. I'm much more interested in the innovations Apple has in store on the software and hardware side. The opportunities that Apple, and only Apple, has to rethink the concept of VR and AR because it controls the entire value chain of its products and has a leading position in the current computing paradigm. The entire XR industry will benefit from these (hopefully groundbreaking) design innovations.
Don't expect a revolution
But do not expect a game changer. For that to happen, the technology will have to mature, prices will have to come down, and applications will have to emerge that solve real problems. I doubt very much that Apple will achieve that with the first generation.
It seems to me that Apple is far too early with such a device, despite years of reported delays. There is no need to rush, as VR and AR have yet to breathe mainstream air beyond pure gaming. Meta's first attempt to go beyond that and launch a general-purpose XR device so early has failed. The full realization of that vision seems to be at least ten years away.
Apple will reportedly try to do something similar with its headset, but it won't be able to skip all the necessary technical development, just like Meta didn't. The company is likely to unveil a product that is completely uncharacteristic of Apple. Because it won't look cool, it won't have a killer application, and it will be hugely expensive (around $3,000, according to reports). At least, that's my prediction.
And all of that makes me doubt whether the headset will actually be unveiled on June 5, 2023. I'm swimming against the tide, and I'm betting against it.