Analyst view: Starting at $3499
Apple has finally acknowledged that it has been working for years on the eXtended Reality product. XR is a collaborative term that unifies an Augmented and Virtual reality device under one umbrella. Apple’s announcement shared sufficient details to create excitement around VR and give us some idea about the device, but it left some key elements out, including storage options and RAM.
I do not plan to touch on all the details. The press already did a wonderful job covering what was announced in the keynote. The plan is just to address some prominent issues and features. First and foremost, Apple announced the device and said it plans to ship it to the US next year. This is a vague timeframe, as not even a quarter of the launch date has been locked down. So, the product launch is still in the future, at least three quarters from now. It is still in the distant future.
Vision Pro is a high-end device that should excite the Apple ecosystem about AR / VR or simply XR. Apple uses special computing and calls its devices the most powerful spatial computer, and it hopes that the industry will stick with its choice of words.
The fact that Apple uses cameras to track your hand gestures for everyday operations like browsing and opening icons and lets you enjoy hand free environment is a nice touch. Apple also tracks your eyes for selection and does not let the websites know where you are looking until you select an excellent feature. A virtual keyboard would be a great touch, but Apple only tells you to use your Mac keyboard and watch the content on the Vision Pro glasses. We are back to having multiple devices to be productive. Using Siri to give voice commands is nothing new, but it also will help resolve and use some features, as long as it understands you or the feature is supported.
Consumer, high-end Prosumer
Companies like Meta / Facebook have been trying to capture an XR enthusiast market for a few years and have offered decent devices over the last few years. Devices like Meta ex Oculus Quest sold in millions and relied on Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2. Apple plans to offer a greater experience at seven times the newly announced Meta Quest 3 price. This puts Vision Pro in the category of extremely high-ended devices. Taking GPUs, it would be a 4090 TI if one would launch. It is the most powerful thing ever built, but at the same time, by far the most expensive too.
Vision Pro announcement reminds me of the Varjo VR demo a few years ago in San Francisco organized by Horizon agency and its principal Jonathan Hirshon. To this date, Varjo High-Resolution Virtual and Mixed Reality Products – Varjo.com Aero, Varjo VR-3, and Varjo XR-3 are the best hardware devices on the market. Without close competition, Varjo offers the best visual quality and exercise experience I have ever tried.
Still, they target a business audience and predominantly automotive design, design and engineering, training, and simulation. Education and health use cases are also on their radar, but car design was one of the most prominent uses, and the device needs cloud support too. They do not go after the consumer market, leaving that for bigger players like Meta. It takes a village to do that, and smaller players like Pico, Varjo, nReal have little chance against the goliath players but certainly have a strong ability to pave the way. The whole VR story started with a start-up called Oculus on Kickstarter over a decade ago after Facebook acquired it in 2014, for 2 billion.
Apple’s announcement, we cannot call it a launch as it won’t be available this year. It is the right place and time to do it. Some of the WDDC smaller developers got to try the device at the conference, and companies like Disney and Adobe already got first access. Apple is betting on the ecosystem advantage, seamless cooperation between devices, content enjoyment, and video conferencing and collaboration. One dominant player is missing, Microsoft Teams, but we are somehow certain that Microsoft will bail and offer this one to join Zoom too.
Displays combined have a resolution of 23 megapixels or more than 4K per eye. For reference, 4K resolution is about 10 megapixels. This is the best so far, and using an M2 chip together with R1 to run multiple cameras and sensors and drop to latency to 12 nm is hardly surprising. It cannot be done the other way.
Motion to photon is particularly important for any XR solution and determines the conform. When it comes to physical hardware, Apple did an excellent job, at least from what we can see from the presentation. Its high-quality design is there, but the extra external battery on a cable is an unusual decision but somehow understandable.
Power consumption anchors
The Vision Pro glasses, running hidden speakers in the band, WiFi, two Apple silicon and two high-resolution displays, and eight cameras and sensors will be power hungry. Battery life will be measured in a few hours at best. Two options remain, the external battery or an exceedingly long cable that will introduce well-known tripping and potentially whiplashing limitation. Apple also wants to sell you more than one battery to have one on the charger and one attached to your device.
Overall, this is a step in the right direction. This is the first of many devices, a technology that will take years to master. The M2 is a TSMCs 5nm process, and later this year, TSMC, together with Apple to introduce the 3nm processors that will be a better fit for future Vision Pro / non-pro devices. The fact that something is called pro leaves space for non-Pro and Ultra in the future too.
Apple has successfully managed to convince its followers to spend more money on its devices than they ever dreamed of, and this device is no exception. On the contrary, it is pushing the limits of sanity again, but be sure that it will sell to a niche market probably as big as the Mac Pro. The amount purchased and actually used on a daily basis will be a metric to track.