I’ve been following the press and social media coverage of Apple’s pricey new Vision Pro Augmented Reality headset, which now totals hundreds of stories and thousands of comments and I’ve noticed one idea missing from all of them: what would Steve (Jobs) say? Steve would call the Vision Pro a “hobby,” just as he did with the original Apple TV.
You know I’m correct about this.
And the fact that Apple hasn’t gone for the H-word and no other writers are suggesting it is the topic of this column, not the Vision Pro, itself.
It would appear that nobody at Apple has the balls to call the Vision Pro a hobby, which is to say it is not expected to make a profit for the time being, which is obviously the case. Instead people like me speculate how the Vision Pro will possibly make money? It won’t.
Nor does it have to.
There’s that scene in Citizen Kane where Kane the young tycoon is accused of losing $1 million per year on his newspaper and it’s remarked that he could only continue to do so for another 60 years.
Apple’s Vision Pro business is less than a rounding error on Cupertino’s balance sheet. Its success or failure doesn’t matter to Apple’s success, nor should it matter to Apple investors. I’m not saying there can’t be good reasons to sell Apple shares, but if you sold because of the Vision Pro you made a mistake.
Which is why I wish Apple had been honest and called it a hobby. Maybe they are hoping it isn’t a hobby, but that would be a mistake. The Vision Pro’s trajectory is clear to me. It will lose money for years until it finds a vertical market where the price doesn’t matter. Along the way two important effects will also have happened: 1) third-party developers will fall in love with the Vision Pro and make good applications for it, and; 2) eventually Moore’s Law — and Moore’s Law alone — will drive down the Vision Pro’s price enough for some later version to be declared an overnight success.
Apple’s unstated strategy here is obvious. Just look at the company’s previous hobby — Apple TV — which eventually broke even and then begat Apple TV+, a completely separate and different business that needed such a hardware platform to succeed. Along the way Apple TV and the broad success of streaming video on actual televisions helped Apple as a whole to sell production computers and copies of Final Cut Pro, enabling the very different video market of today.
Apple TV was worth doing and so — probably — will be the Vision Pro. But if it isn’t successful that means nothing to Apple’s eventual legacy. So for the moment, it’s just something to write about.
But why did Apple choose not to call the Vision Pro a hobby? That decision was entirely Tim Cook’s, because only the CEO can designate a product to be a hobby. Someone has to take responsibility and when it has an even a minuscule effect on earnings, that someone is the CEO.
So why did Tim Cook decide against calling the Vision Pro a hobby? It’s not that Tim didn’t know the truth. It’s that Tim Cook isn’t Steve Jobs.
This is me simultaneously saying that Tim Cook didn’t have the balls to call the Vision Pro a hobby but at the same time explaining that the decision was meant, in a way, as a compliment to Steve, who remains the company’s visionary, even in death.
That’s touching, Tim, but it’s time for that attitude to change at Apple or the next iPod/iMac/iPad/iPhone will never come.
The post Apple’s Vision Pro headset is a hobby. Why won’t Tim Cook say that? first appeared on I, Cringely.
2023, augmented reality, Media, strategy, Technology, Television, virtual reality, wearable technology, Apple, Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Vision Pro
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