Apple's AR/VR headset, the Reality Pro, is nearly here. Or is it? According to an in-depth new report in the Wall Street Journal, most users' deliveries aren't expected to happen "until the fall at the earliest" – and some Apple insiders think it needs to be delayed even further.
The lengthy piece (which is paywalled), confirms or at least repeats a lot of existing rumours: a $3,000 price tag, a VR version of FaceTime, VR versions of most of the apps you'd find on an iPad – but it also suggests that the headset is very different from the product Apple hoped to build, and that by putting it out now Apple is breaking its own rules about not shipping experimental products.
What is the WSJ saying about the Apple AR/VR headset?
According to the usual sources within Apple and its suppliers, there have been issues with software and with hardware production that have caused headaches for Apple engineers. The external battery pack is reportedly a concession Apple really didn't want to make, and Apple is apparently rushing a product it knows isn't ready because it's scared of losing the market to rivals. The article says that Apple is only expecting to ship 200,000 to 300,000 units in 2023, a small number compared to the first year production of iPhone or Apple Watch.
The biggest problem, though, is something I've written about many times already: Apple hasn't found a killer app. Much of the article talks about what the headset might do rather than what it will do, and who might buy it rather than who will buy it. quoting former Apple product marketing director Michael Gartenberg, the piece says that "it just doesn't make sense" as an Apple product: it's a niche proposition, Gartenberg says, not a mass market device.
We won't have to wait long to see if Apple has pulled a rabbit out of its virtual hat yet: WWDC 2023 takes place from 5 to 7 June 2023 and will reportedly feature a lot of demonstrations of and workshops about the Reality Pro headset. But with Sony PSVR 2 sales falling short of expectations; Meta deciding that AI, not the metaverse, is Facebook's future; and Apple apparently encountering very un-Apple problems in preparing its own device, it's starting to look like VR continues to be the answer to a question nobody can quite define just yet.