The Insanity That is the Apple Vision Pro

No one will ever wear a Vision Pro on a plane ride.

Apple is gearing up for the retail launch of its Vision Pro mixed-reality headset, targeting a niche market of enthusiasts. According to Bloomberg, the company plans to introduce special sections in select US stores, initially in major areas like New York and Los Angeles, before expanding nationwide. Apple engineers are also working on localizing the device for several countries, including the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea.

Source: Apple

On the surface, the mainstream press treats every rumor and whisper about the Vision Pro with a great deal of deference to Apple baked in with a total lack of self-awareness. Bloomberg, lead by Mark Gurman, it’s main Apple tracking journalist, has been pretty good at predicting what Apple is going to do. In fact, some would say that it is a wonderful back-channel for Apple execs to fine tune their messaging. Some would say that, but not me.

To ensure a proper fit and personalized experience for customers, Apple will require in-store buyers to make appointments for purchasing the Vision Pro, similar to its strategy for the Apple Watch in 2015. The company is also developing an iPhone app and physical machine to determine the right light seal and scan a person’s head, respectively, aiding in sizing accessories and achieving optimal user comfort. Online purchasers will have a similar process, where they can upload prescription data and utilize the face scan app for accessory sizing.

Cut away the hagiography of Apple, the world’s first trillion dollar company, and you find the disfunction and insanity that surrounds its venture into the mixed reality world. It may be that in making the Vision Pro, the people at Apple who developed the headset got mixed realities themselves. On the one hand, it is meant to be the future of Apple computing, spatial computing as it is called, and the on the other hand, it feels like it will be relegated to the status of every other VR demo that has ever been given in a mall. Kind of like Sandbox VR or VR Adventure Zone, but for boomers.

The Vision Pro Rollout Plan

Apple acknowledges that the retail launch of the Vision Pro will be its most complex to date, involving intricate supply chain logistics, salesperson training, and customer education on using the device. Consequently, Apple does not anticipate partnering with third-party resellers to offer the Vision Pro until at least 2025. Due to limited supply and high costs, most stores will initially feature only one to two demo units. And to put that into perspective, you just have to think about what that really means: two years out for something that was pushed out with a lot of fanfare, at great expense, a few months ago. Maybe we will all forget about the launch by then, and maybe we will have forgotten about the product.

Yes, initially, Apple had envisioned producing high-single-digit millions of units in the first year, but due to manufacturing complexities, that target got revised to approximately 900,000 units, but it is probably going to be under 400,000 units, and I wouldn’t doubt lower before the year is out.

The launch of the Vision Pro also poses challenges in managing the accompanying accessories. Apple will offer headbands, light seals, and prescription lenses, necessitating stores to carry multiple sizes. The company has partnered with Carl Zeiss AG for the prescription lenses and will need to keep hundreds or thousands in stock, especially considering users with different prescriptions for each eye. That right there is another point of insanity. Wouldn’t it just be better if Apple did a deal with Lenscrafters?

But, the adaptations for users doesn’t stop at the eyes. Apple has addressed concerns regarding the headset’s fit for users with smaller body sizes and heads by developing a second strap that sits across the top of the head. However, the design of this accessory is still being finalized. The company has also considered the headset’s compatibility with cultural apparel, such as a hijab, and explored the possibility of shoulder-worn pouches to accommodate users without suitable pockets for the external battery pack. This is not the product that was demoed, and it certainly is nothing like a Apple Watch which was basically a smart watch and needed an adjustable band, and not much else.

But it gets worse. Considering potential wear and tear, Apple has investigated protective measures for the Vision Pro. The front of the headset is susceptible to scratches, prompting the company to explore collaborations with third-party manufacturers for screen protectors. Moreover, to prevent damage from accidental collisions, Apple has incorporated alerts to discourage wearing the device while walking at certain speeds. So, don’t strap a laptop to your face, and have an expensive OLED screen facing out in front, by no means not the most expensive display on the device, and expect everything to be hunky dory. You add all the costs up, and what is supposed to be a $3,500 device, audible gasp, becomes a $5,000 carbuncle, audible WTF.