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Apple Vision Pro: Is Tim Cook the New Steve Ballmer?

Despite not soliciting my opinions, my decade-long journey as an XR professional and influencer across Europe, China, and the USA compels me to share mine. Having tested every imaginable XR device and advised numerous companies on ecosystem development, I find myself skeptical of Apple's Vision Pro.

Here's why:

What did Steve Jobs say about user experience again?

Zuck Strategy for the Metaverse

Apple proposes a user experience that goes beyond traditional device replacement, aiming to enrich its ecosystem with the ability to watch home videos, stream Apple TV+, and extend MacBook displays.

This approach is aligned with the XR industry's ambition to supersede screen-based devices with headsets, a vision that devices like the Quest are beginning to realize by enabling users to display com puter screens, watch Netflix, or engage on WhatsApp/Instagram.

However, these use cases adoption is hindered by the discomfort and bulkiness of these devices, raising the question of why consumers would opt for an even heavier option for the sake of smaller pixels. After all, cinema wasn't rejected in its early days for being black and white and silent.

"You've got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around." said Steve Jobs, yet seemingly ignored in this venture. Over a decade, it's become clear that success in XR depends on creating a cohesive ecosystem where products and platforms provide capabilities tailored to a specific audience, emphasizing the need for a harmonious blend of platform, content, and audience.

The Unattainable Market of Apple Vision Pro

The device's physical weight limitations suggest Apple should target a specific, hardcore VR audience. However, that's not their approach.

Instead, the product is marketed to those seeking additional screens. Imagine a scenario where people can comfortably wear a device for hours. If you're only looking for screens right in front of your eyes, simpler glasses like Xreal, which connect directly to your phone or computer, would be more convenient, comfortable, and cost-effective.

Apple targets a market where the Vision Pro seems out of place.

Cannibalization of iPad, MacBook and even iPhone

Apple is undermining its own business. For XR devices to be successful, they should replace existing Apple products, not merely supplement them.

The notion that the Apple Vision Pro can integrate seamlessly into the Apple ecosystem doesn't offer a significant advantage. This positions the product as an add-on, diminishing the potential to replace older product generations.

Meta has a considerable advantage in this regard. With no entrenched ecosystem to consider, the Quest and its successors possess the disruptive ability to replace former devices—specifically, those from Apple.

The Apple Marketing Machine actually run for Meta

Meta Quest 3 may be the winner

Apple's vast campaign primarily reaches those unlikely to purchase the AVP due to its cost, yet they might consider a Quest 2 or 3.

Despite the recent announcement of the AVP, Meta Reality Labs achieved $1B in sales in Q4 2023, marking their most successful quarter. A significant number of new VR users, potentially 90%, are opting for Meta Quest.

AVP users, initially hesitant about VR for various reasons, may eventually switch to Quest, finding it financially advantageous to sell their AVP. The reverse scenario seems unlikely.

Tim Cook may underestimate Meta

He could experiment more with a Quest 3 instead of rephrasing MR to spatial computing. In the industry, it's widely acknowledged that the distinction between AR and VR is blurred, leading to a unified mixed reality experience as seen with AVP and Quest.

Users are indifferent to the XR terminology; they seek tangible value in the products they use. A decline in AVP usage could signal a critical moment for Apple. Should users begin to return or resell their devices, it would raise concerns about Tim Cook's "Vision."

The real competition lies not in the hardware but in delivering value through immersive experiences. Misjudging Meta's position in the XR landscape could lead to a pivotal moment for Apple, challenging the company's vision and its future in the XR industry.

Impact on the XR Industry's Journey

Our industry has faced skepticism, yet the advent of products like AVP validates our long-held beliefs in the potential of XR. However, the industry's success hinges not on individual achievements but on our collective ability to deliver compelling, user-centered experiences.

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