Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a Monday morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
The long wait
When Apple announced the first iPhone in 2007, there was a five-month wait before the product became available in stores. When the company unveiled the first Apple Watch in 2014, we had to wait seven months to see what the big deal was. But the Vision Pro headset, unveiled last week, is likely to be nine or even 10 months from launch based on a spring 2024 rollout, and there are no guarantees it’ll be ready by then. (Spare a thought, too, for those of us in the U.K. who don’t even know if our nation is in the second tier of countries who’ll get the headset later in 2024.) After the Lord Mayor’s show comes the long wait.
To a degree, this sort of thing is inevitable, as is hinted at by the similarly, albeit slightly less, lengthy lead times for those previous big launches. (Mind you, the first iPad turned things around in less than two months from its unveiling, so these things are all relative.) While an iterative upgrade can be manufactured in comparative secrecy and then revealed as a fait accompli, the regulatory hoop-jumping required for a brand-new product line means the secret is essentially impossible to keep under wraps. You have to either announce early and live with a wait or have the internet make your announcement for you.
There are cases, however, where an early announcement cannot be rationalized simply by reference to bureaucratic red tape. Apple’s doomed AirPower project, for example, was plainly unveiled too early–not merely at a point when distribution still had to be sorted out, but when the engineers hadn’t finished fixing the problems. Presumably, Apple felt pushed into an announcement before it was really ready, either because it needed a punchy product to demonstrate that it could still innovate, or as a political plan B in response to the EU’s meddling on charging standards. Either way, the decision was a poor one.
Vision Pro is a different matter, with several factors potentially contributing to an unusually early unveiling. One is Tim Cook’s personal stake in the project. Despite leading the company to unprecedented financial success, Apple’s MVP CEO is often damned with faint praise: just a logistical safe pair of hands, they say; no vision; no significant launches on his watch. (And that includes the actual watch, which is somehow thought of as a Jobs product even though he died three years before it came out.) With retirement in the cards at some point over the next few years, Cupertino’s affable boss is understood to be thinking about his legacy, which may be why he reportedly overruled the design team and demanded that the Vision Pro launch this year. Cook doesn’t want to wait for technology to catch up with the concept. He wants to get started now.
More broadly, Apple is impatient to get started on the next chapter of its story. The company has been coasting on the profits of its iPhone line for years and understandably wants to know what comes next. As does the industry as a whole, for that matter. Mixed reality is certainly one possible future, but it’s nothing like the sure thing that mobile felt like in the mid-2000s, or that personal computing must have felt like in the late 1970s. This could come off, but it could also go spectacularly wrong if the world decides that it doesn’t want to wear a computing device on its face.
Like a job seeker unable to get experience without being hired, and unable to be hired without experience, Apple is in a bit of a Catch-22 situation. The world, and the state of technological advancement, seem unready for the company’s vision of facial computing; batteries aren’t slim enough, screens aren’t cheap enough, and the general public is skeptical. But the best way to move those things forward is to get out there and make the case. With Apple visibly behind the concept, devs will start building apps, movie studios will start creating content, rival vendors will step up work on their own products and the rest of us can start getting our heads around the societal changes required to move en masse from the phone to the headset.
Vision Pro’s first generation is unlikely to sell many units, and Apple may look silly for jumping on the mixed-reality bandwagon this early. But sometimes you need to take a risk–and the potential rewards are huge.
We won’t be able to post a review for a while, but we have spent an hour testing out the Vision Pro headset. And we didn’t want to leave.
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Podcast of the week
Apple’s mixed reality headset is now official, and it is definitely something to behold. We talk about the Apple Vision Pro in this episode of the Macworld Podcast–what it is, the tech behind it, what it will cost, and why would you want one in the first place!
You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.
Software updates, bugs, and problems
These five new iOS 17 features make us eager to upgrade.
Meanwhile, a bunch of great iOS 17 features didn’t even make the WWDC keynote.
But the best new iOS 17 feature might be a neat toggle that automatically deletes one-time passwords.
macOS 14 Sonoma brings desktop widgets, more private Private browsing to the Mac.
Apple has rethought the Apple Watch with its watchOS 10 update.
iPadOS 17 brings a raft of new features in better-than-expected update.
AirPods noise cancellation is about to become a lot smarter.
And with that, we’re done for this week’s Apple Breakfast. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter or on Facebook for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.