It’s been a while since we’ve seen an Apple product absolutely flop. Yes, the iPhone mini didn’t do the expected numbers, but only relative to the monster volumes that iPhones normally shift.
But for the company’s upcoming mixed-reality headset, the signs don’t look enormously good – especially considering the moneybags NZ$4,775 expected price tag.
In a slightly pessimistic post on Medium, the Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo writes that the headset is “likely the last hope for convincing investors that the AR/MR headset device could have a chance to be the next star product in consumer electronics.”
And he’s got a point: the mood music around these expensive headsets isn’t good. Kuo estimates that the Pico has sold 40% fewer units than expected, that Sony has slashed PSVR 2 production by 20% and that the Meta Quest Pro has only sold around 300,000 units (which may explain it dropping in price almost before you could get the shrink wrapper off). It’s a terrible time to be shifting luxury products that don’t really have a proven purpose.
The long-term plan for Apple is for some kind of smart glasses to ultimately replace the iPhone, but while much of the technology is the same, the distance between a VR/AR headset and a pair of smart glasses is enormous. It’ll take years to bridge the gap, if it’s even possible, and investors may not have that kind of patience if the first tentative step appears to be bombing.
Of course, Apple does have a trump card that the other players in the mixed reality space don’t: a fan base that will spend a fortune on stuff, even if it looks a bit silly. Remember how AirPods were initially mocked and now are ubiquitous? Maybe Apple could make wandering around in a VR headset look fashionable… or not quite as ridiculous as it does at the moment, at any rate.
It’s a big gamble, but if any company can afford to gamble, it’s one that’s worth NZ$4 trillion. WWDC is certainly going to be interesting this year…
Image: Ian Zelbo