Apple's own execs are split on whether the company should make smart goggles. Experts say if Apple can't make smart glasses happen, no one can.
Apple is reportedly introducing its Reality Pro smart goggles in June.
But NYT reported on a rare wave of dissent internally at Apple, raising doubts about the product.
Experts say the goggles may not be a smash success, but if anyone can make it work, it's Apple.
Some of the biggest companies in tech are betting on virtual reality, augmented reality, and a combination of the two, under the catchall umbrella of "extended reality," or XR.
Whatever you call them, these headsets' path to consumer adoption has become so rocky and difficult that those behind the creation and development are becoming increasingly doubtful of their ability to deliver on their own promises.
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that a rare wave of dissent made its way into the team behind Apple's mixed-reality smart goggles, called Apple Reality Pro. It's reported to launch this year, with its debut expected at June's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.
Some of Apple Reality Pro features are said to include in-air typing, the ability to switch between virtual and augmented realities, its own custom operating system, and access to fitness and gaming apps and Apple TV. Former and current employees told the Times that they worried the expected price tag of $3,000 wouldn't give customers enough value to build momentum in the market. Experts agree that there's cause for concern.
"Something's not ready for primetime or the go-to market isn't there," said Eric Abbruzzese, research director at New York-based ABI Research, speculating on the reported dissent at Apple.
"Apple's very rarely first to market and they would be with this product. So, there's probably product managers who are saying, 'we don't really have a lot of data on how this product's going to perform," he also said.
The concerns aren't new. Google, Microsoft, and Meta have faced similar struggles with their XR businesses. In fact, a former Microsoft executive told Insider in early 2022, "so many people are getting into 'it,' but haven't decided what 'it' is."
But that's where the experts say Apple will be the industry's best hope in the near term. Because if it can't make XR goggles a market mover like it did with the smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches, then who can? Apple is the only Big Tech company with enough financial stability and runway to work through the kinks and show a direct path to non-gaming consumers.
Whatever meager momentum AR and VR headsets have found so far has been in the professional setting: Microsoft signed a troubled contract with the US Army for augmented reality headsets, while Google recently discontinued Google Glass Enterprise Edition, amid apparently low sales. Meta has had some success with its Meta Quest 2 headset in the video game market, but it's still a niche product. Mass adoption is still elusive.
Apple knows that mixed-reality headset is a harder sell than an iPhone or iPad
Apple wowed the world with the iPhone in 2007, the now-discontinued iPod in 2001, and the Apple Watch in 2015.
Apple Reality Pro will have a wow-factor to it because it's had time to improve upon the foundations laid by its competitors. But again, the struggle will be in getting the average consumer to buy it.
An analyst that spoke to the Times said Apple will probably release the mixed-reality goggles the same way it did the Apple Watch. It will sell the overly expensive goggles to the best of its ability (for reference, Meta's Quest Pro headset started at $1,500 before it was lowered to $1,000), see how people use it, and then release versions more tailored to what people will pay for.
"As people get their hands on these headsets, that's when they'll come up with the right content that's needed," said Jitesh Urbani, a research manager at International Data Corporation in Needham, Massachusetts.
If all goes well, Apple will be able to meet consumer demand instead of chasing it. And so will its competitors.
The virtual reality headset market was worth $7.7 billion in 2022, according to a report by Grandview Research. The research firm projects the global market will grow by 30.6% by 2030.
Abbruzzese told Insider that ultimately, this first round is really for developers.
"It gives time for developers to create some VR content. It gives time for corporations to figure out, at small scale, is this a product we want; is this an ecosystem we want to work in," he said.
Read the original article on Business Insider