A recent report suggested that Apple Inc. has been speeding up the development of its “mixed reality” headset, with the device expected to roll out this year.
Rumors of Apple’s plans to create a headset that would enable the overlay of virtual objects onto the real world have been circulating for seven years — twice as long as the iPhone’s development period.
The report further suggested that the headset launch could occur in June, coinciding with Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference.
The headset’s initial sales are expected to differ from those of the iPhone or Apple Watch. Apple reportedly aims to sell about one million units within the first year of release, with each costing approximately $3,000 due to its various cameras and high-quality displays.
“They have huge pressure to ship. They have been postponing the launch each year for the past [few] years.”
Anonymous, former Apple engineer
Financial Times reported that the project faced numerous setbacks, causing internal tensions within Apple, with some arguing that it should be postponed beyond its planned 2023 launch date. Also, the team responsible for operations at Apple had intended to launch an initial product version that resembles ski goggles.
The headset aims to enable users to engage in various activities, including but not limited to watching immersive 3D videos, participating in interactive workout sessions and conversing through realistic avatars using a modified version of FaceTime.
Apple’s industrial design team reportedly cautioned against rushing and recommended delaying the launch until a more lightweight version of augmented reality (AR) glasses becomes technically feasible.
However, according to two sources familiar with Apple’s decision-making, CEO Tim Cook has sided with operations head Jeff Williams to go ahead with a launch this year.
Apple had earlier undergone a restructuring of its organization following the departure of its chief design officer (CDO), Jony Ive, in 2019. Williams then took over the design department.
After Ive left, his role was divided into two different positions, with Evans Hankey responsible for hardware design and Alan Dye in charge of software design. However, in October of last year, Hankey announced her resignation.
The Apple Watch was the company’s most recent primary hardware product, released in 2015. Although it came out after Jobs’ death in 2011, the project took his input into account.
Under Cook’s leadership, Apple has experienced remarkable growth, with its market capitalization rising from about $350 billion in 2011 to approximately $2.4 trillion. The company launched Apple Watch and AirPods in 2015 and 2016. These products contributed to the growth of its accessories division, which is now a $41 billion business.
A former Apple engineer told FT that the increasing influence of operations in product development is a natural progression in Apple’s path under Cook’s leadership.
The engineer also said that coming up with engineering solutions to meet the design team’s strict requirements had been the most rewarding part of working at Apple. However, this dynamic has changed over the past few years.
Apple’s 12-person executive team, led by Cook, reflects the company’s changing priorities. As a former operations chief, Cook has overseen the ascent of four members from Apple’s operations division to the executive team.