Is there a turf war between Apple’s operations and design teams over the first generation of Apple AR glasses? Or are we now hearing old news being repeated as competitors spread negative gossip for fear of Apple’s impending AR launch?
What we think we know
We’re not sure, but here’s what happened over the last 48 hours on the Apple Rumor Merry-go-round:
- The Financial times claimed Apple CEO Tim Cook ordered the launch of the new devices this year, despite warnings from those working on the project that the product isn’t ready.
- from Bloomberg Mark Guerman later said the events described happened in 2018 when then design lead Jony Ive pushed for AR over VR, with Apple compromising on a mixed reality headset.
- Gurman also said 11 senior executives have left the company in the second half of 2022. These were people in charge of hardware, software, design, privacy, cloud, and other key verticals within the company. This may not relate to the above, but indicates some internal instability.
Apple has reportedly been working on AR glasses for seven years or more.
Years in development
I believe the research started years before, at least in 2008 when Research and Markets claimed that Apple and Sony had started developing portable head-mounted video displays. “These products provide navigation functions in fully transparent mode, as well as video playback with a clip-on to block out the background,” researchers claimed at the time.
The products are expected to be state-of-the-art with 4K OLED screens, advanced eye- and hand tracking sensors, motion based controls, collaboration tools and easy to use Development Toolsincluding an App Store and a powerful operating system.
With this in mind, it’s interesting that Cook took a trip to visit Sony’s cutting-edge image sensor research facility in Japan in December 2022. Sony will provide Apple with state-of-the-art image sensors for iPhone this yearso it’s reasonable to think those sensors will power the dozens of cameras expected in Apple’s V.1 mixed-reality headset.
Invent Apple Reality? It’s complicated…
We know the project is complex. Already, the work to ship these devices seems to require a company-wide effort, with software, hardware, and services development resources being poured into a project that Apple hopes will become another major product line.
We’ve also heard that while the ultimate goal is to produce mixed reality goggles that are as thin and light as regular goggles, the product we’re about to experience won’t be. The first edition will be bulky and expensive, with cheaper models expected in 2024-25 and a lightweight model that looks more like normal glasses not expected before 2026.
The Financial times report suggests the design team wanted to wait until it was possible to ship the lighter product, but was overruled by operations, who felt the need to launch a version one product to iterate from there.
Is there a turf war between operations and design?
That ops now outweighs design is a change at Apple. The word from the company’s design team was law under previous CEO Steve Jobs.
At the same time, the decision of the operations team seems to make sense because:
- are competitors already expanding space in this emerging market, and Apple doesn’t want to appear to be falling behind.
- The complexity of mixed reality is much more than a matter of hardware design; it also requires evolution within software and experience design along with the evolution of an external development environment and more.
- For these reasons, it makes sense to take something out of it and build from there.
From what we’ve heard, Apple doesn’t expect mass sales and will position its first-generation device as an expensive (up to $3,000) product for first users and developers.
Think about the context
It is very likely that the development of these new products took a hit during the COVID-19 crisis. This has stretched standard approaches to cooperation, broken supply lines, increased component prices and exposed huge political differences between former trading partners. When planning such a complex product, these operational factors will be significant.
This complexity already means that the previous expectation of an introduction of the products in 2022 (or earlier) has been broken; speculation about a launch in early 2023 also turned out to be incorrect. At best, Apple is now expected to introduce the devices to developers at WWDC and ship this fall.
For Apple, for Cook, and for the increasingly powerful Chief Operations Officer Jeff Williams, the product could make or break their reputation and legacy. If they’re right and Apple can bring a visionary product to market this year that’s innovative enough to spark evolution in the category, their reputations will be safeguarded.
Still, leading up to and shortly after the product launch, it’s reasonable to expect critics of Apple and/or Cook to make defamatory statements and share critical speculation about what’s to come, though most speculation pretty much says Apple will make it eventually. possible to wear your Mac as you currently wear glasses.
Not for the first time in Cupertino, a lot now depends on what Apple realizes with Apple Reality.
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