RELATED UPDATE: Apple fans are starting to return their Vision Pros (The Verge)
The interesting thing about Apple these days is no one is talking about the latest iPhone, iPad or Mac.
Instead, Apple Vision Pro is grabbing a remarkable amount of press. Headline after headline offers analysis of the first gen device, prognostications on its potential for sales, and salivates over its futuristic uses.
If generating buzz was part of the goal with the $3,500 headset then mission accomplished — so far.
Then there’s the foot traffic to the Apple Store. By most accounts we’re not seeing massive lines consistently across locations or the wall to wall instore crowds that might accompany past iPhone launches. Instead things have been rather calm and orderly. You can sign up for a demo of Apple Vision Pro and spend about 30 minutes with an associate getting a demo. That’s great for Apple. Here is a potential buyer beholden to Apple and surrounded by Apple products for sale for a good chunk of time. Not only that, while wearing Apple Vision Pro the prospect (mark!) is getting an earful of scripted material about how great and featureful this device is, and, also all the related tech and apps made by Apple — not just the Vision Pro.
So even if that person doesn’t walk out with one they might go ahead and size up that new iPhone or iPad or Mac. After all, they all look ridiculously cheap by comparison. That makes convincing your partner a much easier job. “Well, okay, maybe we should wait for Apple Vision Pro 2, gen 2. But, look! We can save $2,500 and just upgrade my two-year-old iPhone! Score!”
Apple! Apple! Apple!
I’m guessing the in-store conversion rate is pretty low. That’s because the early adopters and real keeners and geeks and influencers already bought one online the very second the Apple Vision Pro buy button lit up on the Apple online store. We have been beholden to their endless takes on social media. Most are wowed by the tech, but almost all complain about its weight. Some add that the external cable and battery is a careless design oversight that Steve Jobs would never have green lit.
In any case, getting all this press and foot traffic (even if not game changing) keeps the Apple brand top of mind among consumers.
It’s All About Feedback and Iteration
In an interesting article on Apple Vision Pro including shortcomings and possibilities, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman notes that even Apple believes that it could take four generations before the product reaches “its ideal form” — as we’ve seen across other nascent product lines.
And here’s where Apple wins again.
With Apple Vision Pro, the company can collect massive amounts of feedback. Not just about it used by early adopters, but how they might want to use it in the future. People who get their hands on one during the first generation cycle tend me mostly curious nerds. They dig deep. Push and prod and otherwise give products a serious once-over. These typically tech savvy consumers, well versed not only in Apple’s products and services, but also in the market in general. They’re also likely committed to the Apple ecosystem, meaning they own several other devices and subscribe to one or more services/apps. Net-net: these are highly prized customers. So Apple would do well to: (1) retain them by engaging in some arms-length product development; (2) soak up the best of their ideas and most compelling feedback to improve Apple Vision Pro; (3) make them feel loved.
Meanwhile, Apple Vision Pro might create pause for a shopper who would otherwise buy a competitive product, most notably a Meta Quest. Perhaps wait out the market a bit and in a year or so get a Vision Pro v2; the one that will sell for 30-50% less and be far more comfortable to wear, and — thankfully! — not have that pesky external cable and power supply.
All told, if the Apple Vision Pro sort of flames out early on this year, perhaps generating a decent amount of Q1 buzz and PR, only to then peter out from public discourse, CEO Tim Cook and team still come out ahead.
They will take that feedback and iterate. And iterate. And iterate some more.
Who knows, maybe Apple itself doesn’t really understand what people want from a AR/VR/MR headset or even if spatial computing is a killer app. What exactly do we want from these things? Personal IMAX streaming experiences at home? Immersive video games? Seemingly unlimited monitors in a virtual space to ramp up productivity? (Porn?).
This early swarm of first gen users (testers) will provide a trove of valuable data back to Apple HQ in Cupertino. There it will be ingested and the most valid uses cases will bubble up to the top. Concepts and ideas Apple designers and engineers hadn’t previously discovered will be sitting right there within that valuable group of early adopters. And because of this — and also because Apple has done it before with the iPhone, iPad and Watch — the iterations will be successful and Apple Vision Pro will evolve into a future product perfectly suited for the future buyer.