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Apple takes humble approach as it launches its newest device| GuyWhoKnowsThings


When Apple launched the Apple Watch in 2015, it was business as usual for a company whose iPhone updates had become cultural touchstones. Before the watch went on sale, Apple delivered the first versions to celebrities like Beyoncépresented it in fashion publications like Vogue and transmitted a striking event on the Internet touting its characteristics.

But as Apple prepares to sell its next generation of laptops, the Vision Pro augmented reality device, it is moving much more quietly into the consumer market.

The company said in a press release this month that sales of the device would begin on Friday. No major product event was scheduled, although Apple created a compelling commercial about the device and offered individual demonstrations of it to technology critics. And in a change for the secretive company, the Vision Pro has been tested with more developers than previous Apple products to see what they like and don't like.

The toning down of marketing tactics speaks to the challenges facing Apple, a company that has grown so much over the years that new product lines that could one day be worth billions remain a portion of Apple's sales. iPhone, which exceeded 200 billion dollars last year.

Apple's low-key approach to the Vision Pro also speaks to the challenges associated with selling a device that could still take years to appeal to mainstream consumers. In addition to explaining what the Vision Pro can do (as it does with every new device), Apple must overcome its high price of $3,500, as well as the lack of interest in augmented reality devices that combine the digital and physical worlds. Another challenge: the three-dimensional experience offered by the device can only be understood through demonstrations.

Apple's solution is to take things slow and generate interest among developers who can create apps that work with the Vision Pro. The company is expected to release the device to more mainstream customers after lowering the price and improving the technology.

Analysts expect Apple to sell around 400,000 units of the Vision Pro this year. On the contrary, the company sold approximately 12 million Apple watches in 2015, analysts said.

“Apple knows this product is not ready for the masses,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at Deepwater Asset Management, a technology research and investment firm. “For them, making a big expense would be out of character.”

Apple declined to comment.

Vision Pro has been in development for almost a decade and cost billions of dollars to develop. The device, which looks like ski goggles, uses cameras and sensors to track people's eyes and hand movements as they interact on the headset's screen with three-dimensional digital objects such as apps and computer screens. It can also record three-dimensional video and play movies on screens that look as big as those in a movie theater.

“It's the first Apple product that you look closely at and don't notice,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in June during the product's unveiling.

But augmented reality devices have had a hard time winning over consumers. Last year, the tech industry sold 8.1 million augmented reality headsets, a decrease of 8.3 percent from the previous year. according to IDC, a market research company. From jumping onto the market in 2014, Meta, Facebook's parent company, sells Oculus and Quest headsets for gaming and virtual meetings. Sony, Microsoft and Varjo, a Finnish company, also have augmented reality devices.

Apple has tried to differentiate its device from competitors who have described their products as gateways to the metaverse. Instead of using that term, which Neal Stephenson coined in the 1992 novel “Snow Crash,” Apple has called its augmented reality experience “spatial computing.”

In their headphone guidelines, Apple asked developers not to refer to the applications they create as virtual reality or augmented reality products, but as spatial computing applications.

“They maintain complete control,” said Grant Anderson, executive director of mirror landscapethe creator of an augmented reality app for board games.

Since the introduction in June, Apple has courted developers it hopes will create apps for the device. It created testing labs around the world where developers could test the product.

In August, Cristian Díaz, a Monstarlab engineer, went to a Vision Pro laboratory in Munich. After passing through a secret door marked with the Apple logo, he joined other developers who were fitted with a headset and given six hours to test their apps and write code on the system.

Diaz said Apple engineers had asked developers for feedback on the device, including how the software and development tools worked. They took notes. When Díaz returned for a second lab experience in London in September, he said, it was clear that Apple had made improvements based on feedback.

Among the changes, Apple made it possible for its engineers to watch what developers were doing inside the headphones by connecting to them with Apple's wireless communication tool, AirPlay, Díaz said. That allowed engineers to help developers solve problems as they worked on their applications.

“We were like animals in a laboratory,” said Díaz, who called the Vision Pro “a great experience.”

The approach was something of a change for Apple. Under its co-founder Steve Jobs, the company largely avoided holding focus groups for its products because it believed Apple's job was to figure out what customers wanted before they realized it.

Cook has been more open to seeking feedback, said Phillip Shoemaker, who worked at Apple for seven years, running its App Store. Under the direction of Jobs and Cook, Apple tested its iPad and Watch products with select developers in Cupertino, California. But with Vision Pro, the company brought an unreleased product to developers abroad for the first time.

“Of all the products to do that, a headset makes sense because it's fickle,” said Shoemaker, CEO of Identity.com, an identity verification nonprofit. “They don't fit everyone.”

In addition to courting developers, Apple has worked with entertainment companies to equip the Vision Pro with TV shows, movies, music and sports. Disney has made it possible to watch movies from a theater on its on-device streaming app, and Alicia Keys recorded an intimate performance in an immersive three-dimensional video.

Content experiences will be key to broadening the device's appeal, said Carolina Milanesi, technology analyst at Creative Strategies. Because headphones isolate people from the world, she said, Apple will have to give people reasons to spend time with one.

To spark consumer interest, Apple has run an ad on national television. He The ad shows clips from famous movies. from people who wear headphones, including Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars” and Doc Brown from “Back to the Future.” It culminates with a woman putting on a Vision Pro.

The announcement is a reminder of the original iPhone commercial which showed film and television clips of people answering the phone, like Lucille Ball in “I Love Lucy.”

Apple has been running the Vision Pro ad during National Football League games, according to iSpot.tv, which measures advertising spending. Apple spent $6.4 million on the spot during the second week of January. In comparison, it spent $9.3 million on an iPhone ad in the first week after the launch of the iPhone 15 last September.

“Is it a product that will be ubiquitous? No,” Milanesi said. “It's going to be a product that will take time.”


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