Home Metaverse Reports of the Apple Vision Pro’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated—And We Need to Compare Apples to Apples (Pun Intended) – Ryan Schultz
Metaverse

Reports of the Apple Vision Pro’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated—And We Need to Compare Apples to Apples (Pun Intended) – Ryan Schultz


Many people are already talking about the death of the Apple Vision Pro…what’s the real story?

Four days ago, I blogged about a widely-circulated report by an Apple industry pundit, speculating that the computer maker was making significant cuts to the number of Apple Vision Pro (AVP) units it was planning to ship this year, and stating that demand for the brand new, high-end VR/AR headset had “fallen sharply beyond expectations.”

This report ignited no shortage of opinions on the matter, both pro and con, with some even going so far as to say that the Apple Vision Pro was “dead.” Matt Binder of Mashable, reporting on the kerfuffle, said:

In the days and weeks after its February release, Apple’s new AR/VR headset was the talk of social media. Tech reviewers raved about how using it was a glimpse into the future of home computers. And the Apple Vision Pro memes were in abundance. Who can forget the guy who wore an Apple Vision Pro at his wedding?

Then February came and went — and there’s not much talk about anymore. It turns out that there’s likely a good reason for the sudden silence around the product: the Apple Vision Pro simply isn’t selling.

So, what’s really going on? I decided to do a little digging to see what’s going on, and what it might mean for Apple and the AVP.

First, there has been no shortage of pushback on the claims made in the original Medium article written by Apple industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. For example, my fellow metaverse blogger Wagner James Au posted to his blog, New World Notes, citing a conversation he had with a former AVP developer Ari Bar-Zeev. Here’s a direct quote from Ari from Wagner’s blog:

I don’t work for Apple anymore and would certainly never speak for them. But I will say the analysts citing “dramatically lowered production numbers” have lost all credibility.

First the analysts said AVP was supply-limited to 180k units. Now they claim Apple is cutting production from 800k to down to 400k. We must have all imagined the report where Apple RAISED production goals first for such a cut to happen. But it makes for a good attention grabber! Let’s just look at the real numbers when they come out.

Honestly, my expectation was that every dev or enthusiast in the US who wanted one or needed one lined up to get one early on. Similar folks overseas are still waiting for their chance (and have gotten creative in the meantime).

Future growth would largely come from new apps that deploy many units for high-value use cases. Like when a certain consulting company reportedly bought 100k Quests for onboarding new employees during the pandemic…

I’ve said from the beginning that the AVP, as Apple’s first Spatial Computer, was not going to be an “iPhone moment” (which still took 5+ years to ramp) but more of a Lisa or Macintosh moment.

The Lisa was truly groundbreaking, but too expensive for most people. The first Macs still cost way more than an AVP in today’s dollars, and it also took a while before they became widely popular. But that’s the appropriate set of numbers we can look at to compare ‘apples to apples.’

To paraphrase, Ari is suggesting that we need to temper our expectations for a brand new product which has been out for less than three months. He also suggests that we need to change our perspective. We’ve become so used to Apple selling millions of iPhones and iPads and MacBooks, that we forget that it can take years before a new type of product gains traction in the marketplace.

In other words, don’t compare the 2024 Apple Vision Pro to the 2024 iPhone, or 2024 iPad, or 2024 MacBook Pro. Compare the 2024 Apple Vision Pro to the 1983 Apple Lisa (which is generally considered the first mass-market personal computer operated via a graphical user interface, something which we take for granted today). And yes, this does mean that we might be waiting for 5, 10, 15, or 20 years to see widespread adoption of concepts which the Apple Vision Pro introduced! This is a long game. (Oh, and by the way, that first Lisa personal computer cost US$9,995 in 1993, the equivalent of US$30,000 today. Throughout the history of technology, early adopters are usually among those willing to pay a steep price to be among the first.)


David Heaney of UploadVR concurs with Ari, in an article which was published the same day as Ming-Chi Kuo’s report, April 24th, 2024:

Headlines are circulating claiming Apple cut Vision Pro production by almost 50% due to weak demand. Here’s why they’re almost certainly false.

The source of these articles is a new note from supply-chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo’s claims sometimes turn out to be true, but not always, and his latest contradicts not only what we know about Vision Pro production, but what Kuo himself said just a few months ago.

Specifically, Kuo is claiming that Apple reduced its sales forecast for Vision Pro from a “market consensus” of 700-750K units to 400-450K units, a roughly 40% reduction.

There are two reasons this claim doesn’t make sense. Firstly, Kuo claims the decision is due to weaker than expected US demand, leading to a production cut ahead of global launch. Yet as recently as February Kuo said Apple’s US target for 2024 was 150-200K units, and in January he said Apple sold almost 200K preorders. MacRumors separately cited “a source with knowledge of Apple’s sales numbers” as saying Apple had sold 200K preorders, particularly ironic given it’s now presenting Kuo’s claim and as if it were official news.

But more importantly, in January Kuo was referencing Apple Vision Pro “achieving a shipment volume of 500,000 units” as the goal for 2024. And this isn’t just a random number – it’s what multiple sources report is Apple’s supply limit for the year, regardless of demand.

The Financial Times, The Information, and The Elec have previously reported that Vision Pro production is heavily constrained by the extremely limited supply of near-4K OLED microdisplays. All three sources reported that Sony, the supplier, can only produce enough microdisplays for less than 500K headsets in 2024. And Kuo himself agreed with this figure, saying in a September note that Vision Pro production in 2024 will be limited to “at most 400,000–600,000 units”.

Given this, why is Kuo suddenly claiming the “market consensus” was 700-750K units? It simply doesn’t make sense.

David goes on to suggest, “Don’t believe everything you read.”


I wanted to end this post by sharing some good commentary I found in a place I visit almost daily—the r/VisionPro subreddit community on Reddit (which, as I discovered today, also runs an associated Discord server). Obviously, there’s going to be some pro-Apple bias here, but it’s not just an echo chamber of apple fanboys, and there are some dissenting voices as well. Even a few doomsayers!

The feeling that I do get from avidly browsing the posts and comments on Reddit is that, for those people who have already bought the device (almost exclusively Americans, since the U.S. is currently the only country that is selling the AVP), they did their research ahead of time, and most seem to be pretty happy for it for two main use cases: productivity/business, and media consumption. This is not a gaming device, although you can certainly stream games to it, and if that is what you are looking for, you would be much better served by another headset. In particular, the people who use it to watch TV and movies rave about it, and the most common complaint is that there’s not enough content (they are clamouring for more 3D movies!). I think there’s going to be pressure on Netflix and other media companies who have sat things out thus far, to cater to a small, but well-heeled, new audience.

Also, it is now clear to me that this is not, and probably never will be, a multi-use device. This is not a device that lends itself to sharing with others, although there is a Guest Mode which allows you to give the AVP to somebody else to give them a brief taste of what it’s all about (somebody has even written up a document called How to Give an Insanely Great Apple Pro Demo).

The process to finding the best fit, so that the device is comfortable to use, is deeply personalized and often, frustrating for some new users (I mean, you literally have to scan your face with an iPhone Pro or iPad Pro as part of the purchasing process!). I have read accounts of people going through mutliple sizes of face shields (you can return them within 14 days without charge), and many different kinds of head straps, to find something that they can comfortably use. And yes, a few people have given up and sent the whole thing back for a refund.

Anyway, on to some of the more interesting comments I have seen on r/VisionPro (with links back to the comment in the comment thread for some context):

It’s an expensive, niche product from a company that people LOVE to hate, and actively root for them to fail. Apple is trying to lay a foundation, and people are patting themselves on the back for pointing out that the top-floor penthouse isn’t done yet. Meanwhile, I’m just appreciating that a company like Apple finally took the leap to make a headset that doesn’t feel like a plastic gaming device. It will take time for a new platform, that launched in one country 3 months ago, that almost nobody owns, to build up momentum and conversation. But, as always, doom & gloom is what gets clicks.

immpopjr

It is not [dead].

I am a developer, and I have just barely started scratching the surface of graphics programming. Making quality 3D software takes time, like decades’ worth of time. If you take a look at programs that truly utilize graphics processing, they are really decades-old apps: Photoshop(1987), Unreal Engine (1999), 3Dmax (1988), Blender (2002) and others. VisionOS, and developing for VisionOS is really not much different than tradition game development. Vision Pro is a totally different medium for input, and we are still looking for better ways to handle inputs. Obviously, there are controllers, but it would be really good if we could find a way to input without using any additional hardware and be cursor-level precise.

Vision OS itself is very young too. It is only 17 years old if you start counting from the iOS release, but even then, the VR part has started very recently. It is basically an iPadOS that is being run in a spherical environment with image analysis of the camera feed to interpret your hand gestures, position them in the sphere, and stitch together all the 8 cameras, and also render multiple apps simultaneously. AVP does all that in a small package while being completely silent for the most part. A lot of components in AVP have been released recently; ARM architecture in laptops started being a thing only in 2020, and it was a massive breakthrough with Apple designing them. Qualcomm only yesterday (April 24, 2024) announced Snapdragon X Elite, but there are no third-party benchmarks with it yet. AVP is a marvelous piece of tech available for $3500; prior to it, you couldn’t even buy a VR headset of this level of quality. Unfortunately, as part of being new products, it needs at least 2 years for good apps to pop up. If you’ve wasted $4000, imagine how much money tech companies are spending. You need a really good Mac (about $2000 for the cheapest Mac Studio), a Vision Pro (about $4000), and a developer costing over $120,000 per year. And you need a team of developers. Quality apps are coming; you have to give it some time.

As for now,really a device for the pro computer users. As a developer, I connect to my PC/Linux boxes using Moonlight and game at 1440p at 90FPS with WiFi 6. I lose hours playing AAA games while laying down in Mount Hood and listening to podcasts. It has phenomenal displays that nothing else compares to, screen quality-wise. It has a really good, power-efficient mobile chip (M2), iPad app compatibility, and great UX. It is one of the best things I’ve ever owned. Also, Apple already has M3 processors with hardware-level ray tracing. This would allow much more realistic rendering, and it makes me super stoked for the next iteration, whenever it will be. I am also excited to see what Meta will come up with next since there are good third-party processors that can be as power efficient as the Vision Pro.

Anyway, no, it is not dead.

sapoepsilon

In no way is this dead. There hasn’t even been a global launch. Developers need time to build great apps, and most of them haven’t even had access to buy a headset because it’s only available in the US. Once people get them, it takes time to build great apps and games, so this is a long term play.

Apple is taking feedback from developers, users, and staff, in which it will update the OS with features that will excite people to buy one. They are developing AI that they will be adding to the AVP that will excite people to buy one. There are so many things yet to come, that I think you will have at least 2 generations, similar to Hololens. Considering AVP has already sold more than the Hololens 2 did in their whole time selling them, there is a definite market there.

Edg1931

So, after all my reading and researching, my expectations are somewhat tempered, but I am still looking forward to when the Apple Vision Pro will be available for Canadians to purchase. You best believe that I will be hovering over my keyboard, waiting for the pre-order countdown clock to hit zero, with my new iPad Pro 11 ready to scan my face, and a copy of my eyeglasses prescription to hand. I’m in.

Yes, I am still willing to shell out some of my own hard-earned cash to essentially become a beta tester for a brand-new and very expensive product! Why? Because this device, and its potential, excites me. This feels like an important next step in my personal virtual reality journey, which started in December 2016/January 2017 when I bought my first VR headset, the Oculus Rift (original version). I’m all in (and may God have mercy on my soul and my wallet).

No, I will not be recommending the university library system I work for buy an AVP for the virtual reality lab project I am currently working on (I am specifying other hardware and software for that, which I am already familiar with). Why? As I said up top, the Apple Vision Pro is intended to be a personalized device, not a multi-user device. It will have a face shield, and prescription lenses, tailored to the shape of my face, my nearsightedness, and my astigmatism. The best I will be able to do is give interested users a brief Guest Mode session, but first I want to get comfortable with the device, and make sure that I have detailed, step-by-step instructions, much like this document, before I give any demos!

Wish me luck; I’m off on another adventure! And, of course, I will be blogging all about it here.

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