To get that out of the way quickly: no, almost certainly I’ll not be buying a Vision Pro next year. But if Apple delivers on its promises, which I have no reason to doubt, count me in one or two years down the road.
Not long after Apple’s WWDC23 keynote the day before yesterday, I wrote this post over at Mastodon:
Mark my words, and never mind the current sticker shock: while Meta in particular has painted itself into a corner with runaway enshittification, and OpenAI in particular is busy pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes with claims that get more ridiculous by the minute, Apple just went and set the next media convergence revolution in motion.
More like, less snappy, another turn of this ongoing revolution, but yes, that’s the thing. Just listen to Apple’s choice of words. It’s not about VR or AR or mixed reality but “spatial computing.” It’s not about gated corporate hellscapes but private and professional experiences. In other words, it’s not about second lives but first lives. Plus, importantly, it’s not about AI but ML applications—one and a half hours of technology presentations without having to endure the term “AI” even once was like taking a refreshing shower at home after a shit day in the cubicle.
September last year, my trusty 2015 27″ Retina iMac up and died, and ever since I’ve been waiting for Apple to revive the 27″ iMac line before buying a new one. (I’m working with a late 2015 21.5″ iMac right now, courtesy of my university’s IT department.) Apple didn’t. Instead, they launched the Mac Studio, pushed the Mac mini spec-wise into the stratosphere, and just substantially upgraded the Mac Pro.
Now, whatever Apple does, everything is always well-thought-out and meticulously prepared. Look at the lineup Apple has established over the last years, in sync with their transition to Apple Silicon. On the one hand, you have mobile devices—iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. On the other hand, every desktop machine for professional or semiprofessional use is or has been separated from its display—Mac Mini, Mac Studio, Mac Pro. Between these, the 24″ iMac is the last desktop machine standing with an integrated display, the perfect computer for casual home use.
All that’s beginning to make sense now—Apple doesn’t call the Vision Pro a “spatial computing device” for marketing purposes only. With its M2 and R1 chips, it has powerful computing capabilities on its own, but there’s no reason to assume that it will never be capable of connecting to Apple’s range of professional desktop machines and, perhaps even more importantly, its range of mobile devices. That way, the Vision Pro—which can project as many crisp displays as you can handle within your virtual space—is slated to become the default display for professional and semiprofessional use. And for non-professional use, well. Technology Development Group VP Mike Rockwell, also quoted in this recommended review, pitched it as a “state-of-the-art TV, surround system, powerful computer with multiple displays, high-end camera, and more.” All of which should remind you of Steven Cichon’s classic “Everything From This 1991 Radio Shack Ad You Can Now Do With Your Phone” from 2014.
That’s where Apple’s placing its bet. Sure, if all goes well, it will cannibalize products from its own lineup sooner or later. But no product line remains a cash cow forever, and they’ve quietly been preparing for this transition for years.
If you have something valuable to add or some interesting point to discuss, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you at Mastodon!