Apple Vision Pro’s uphill battle is only just beginning

Macworld

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.

I don’t get out of bed for less than 500,000 eyeballs

Tough times at Cupertino, where the Vision Pro team recently got the bad news that three of the biggest iPhone apps (YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify) won’t appear on Apple’s new mixed-reality headset. Plenty of other apps will launch for visionOS, of course, but probably not as many as Apple would like. Take it from me that these three won’t be the last to decide the whole thing isn’t worth the effort.

In last week’s Apple Breakfast, I discussed the spiky relationship Apple has with its software ‘partners’, and the way that years of resentment and mistrust may have contributed to reluctance among devs to throw their hats into the Vision Pro ring. But this week I’d like to get away from feelings and talk about the cold hard reality of launching a new platform and trying to persuade other companies to commit to it.

Interviewed by Stratechery last week, Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters summed up Apple’s dilemma rather neatly.

“We have to be careful about making sure that we’re not investing in places that are not really yielding a return,” he explained, “and I would say we’ll see where things go with Vision Pro. Certainly, we’re always in discussions with Apple to try and figure that out but right now, the device is so subscale that it’s not really particularly relevant to most of our members.”

And there it is. Vision Pro is too “subscale,” a polite way of saying that not many people are going to shell out $3,499 for a heavy headset with poor battery life and no killer app. (That last point is important; we’ll be coming back to that.) At the very most, a Netflix app for visionOS would be used by 500,000 people this year, and that simply isn’t worth it for the development work such a project would entail. Far better to wait and see if the thing catches on. Once Tim Cook starts using numbers that end with “illion” instead of “ousand” we can talk.

But the next problem, as eagle-eyed or owl-brained readers will have instantly perceived, is that failing to secure big-name apps like Netflix in turn makes large sales numbers less likely. Your average customer’s first reaction to the Vision Pro sales pitch will be to ask, “What do I actually do with it?” And at the moment, the answer isn’t hugely satisfactory. You have video chats with people, you look at (impressively immersive) photos and videos, and you view your Mac desktop in a huge virtual environment. “Will there be spatial videos on YouTube?” Well, maybe, but there won’t be a YouTube app. You’ll need to view it through the browser. Same for Netflix shows. Same for music on Spotify. It’s just a bit… underwhelming.

And so it goes, round and round, a vicious circle with sharp edges. Don’t get the eyeballs, you don’t get the apps. Don’t get the apps, you don’t get the eyeballs. It’s amazing that any new tech platform ever takes off, really.

There are solutions, of course. You can bully people using your corporate muscle, or bribe them with quid pro quos. (Netflix CEO Greg Peters refers cryptically to “active discussions” about “how we could help each other out. Sometimes we find a great space of overlap.” Who knows what that means?) If you promise a developer stage time at WWDC, there’s a good chance they’ll play ball. If you’re a trusted partner with a strong relationship, developers might take a punt hoping for good things in the future, but as we discussed last week, that’s not Apple’s strength.

And the extra problem that Vision Pro faces is that it’s perceived to have a high barrier to entry. When Apple started the App Store, a lot of its success can be traced to the way that bedroom developers could easily knock up a cool simple iOS game and leap to the top of the charts, which triggered a goldrush of devs looking for a piece of the action. It’s hard to imagine anyone knocking up a spatial computing app after getting home from a shift at the supermarket. This is a platform that calls for corporate resources, which means middle managers asking questions about return on investment.

The most likely outcome is that Vision Pro will prosper as a platform, simply because Apple is about as close to “too big to fail” as exists in the tech industry today. Big names may stay away at first, but a few medium-sized developers will make a decent amount of money in the vacuum they leave, and things will gradually take off; a vicious circle can quickly be replaced by a virtuous one once momentum starts to build. I just can’t see it happening quickly, which will be a test of Apple’s patience. Netflix isn’t the only company that gets annoyed by things that are “not really yielding a return.”

Foundry

Trending: Top stories

The Galaxy S24 Ultra has a display feature iPhone users need to see to believe.

Apple Vision Pro is doomed until it gets the HomePod mini treatment.

Why does Apple Vision Pro come in such a huge box?

Real game streaming apps are finally coming to the iPhone.

Report claims Apple will still control and tax sideloaded apps.

Mac 40th-anniversary special

After 40 years, the Mac is immortal.

Can Apple Vision Pro help the Mac to last another 40 years?

Watch Steve Jobs reveal the very first Macintosh, back in 1984.

Watch the original Mac team reunite at CHM’s 40th-anniversary event.

Podcast of the week

In this episode of the Macworld Podcast, we talk to Will Mosgrove, the photographer behind the iconic Steve Jobs photo that appeared on the very first issue of Macworld 40 years ago.

You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on SpotifySoundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.

Reviews corner

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro review: So close yet so far.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 review: A great smartwatch that isn’t worth the upgrade.

The rumor mill

Report details Apple’s massive AI plans for 2024.

Leaked renders reveal Apple’s surprising design choice for the 12.9-inch iPad Air.

Code snippet hints at new iPads with horizontal camera layout.

Report: The iPhone 16’s wild new Capture button will respond to swipes and pressure.

Apple may already have cornered the market on next-gen 2nm chips.

Software updates, bugs, and problems

iOS 17.3 is here with an important new iPhone security feature you’ll want right now.

Apple patches a serious zero-day vulnerability in new iOS, macOS, tvOS updates.

Google brings several AI features to the Mac with latest Chrome update.

Get a sneak peek at the new emoji coming in iOS 17.4.

Apple releases Vision Pro’s first software update… and it hasn’t even launched yet.

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 Facebook, Threads, or Twitter for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.

Apple Inc

​Macworld Macworld

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.

I don’t get out of bed for less than 500,000 eyeballs

Tough times at Cupertino, where the Vision Pro team recently got the bad news that three of the biggest iPhone apps (YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify) won’t appear on Apple’s new mixed-reality headset. Plenty of other apps will launch for visionOS, of course, but probably not as many as Apple would like. Take it from me that these three won’t be the last to decide the whole thing isn’t worth the effort.

In last week’s Apple Breakfast, I discussed the spiky relationship Apple has with its software ‘partners’, and the way that years of resentment and mistrust may have contributed to reluctance among devs to throw their hats into the Vision Pro ring. But this week I’d like to get away from feelings and talk about the cold hard reality of launching a new platform and trying to persuade other companies to commit to it.

Interviewed by Stratechery last week, Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters summed up Apple’s dilemma rather neatly.

“We have to be careful about making sure that we’re not investing in places that are not really yielding a return,” he explained, “and I would say we’ll see where things go with Vision Pro. Certainly, we’re always in discussions with Apple to try and figure that out but right now, the device is so subscale that it’s not really particularly relevant to most of our members.”

And there it is. Vision Pro is too “subscale,” a polite way of saying that not many people are going to shell out $3,499 for a heavy headset with poor battery life and no killer app. (That last point is important; we’ll be coming back to that.) At the very most, a Netflix app for visionOS would be used by 500,000 people this year, and that simply isn’t worth it for the development work such a project would entail. Far better to wait and see if the thing catches on. Once Tim Cook starts using numbers that end with “illion” instead of “ousand” we can talk.

But the next problem, as eagle-eyed or owl-brained readers will have instantly perceived, is that failing to secure big-name apps like Netflix in turn makes large sales numbers less likely. Your average customer’s first reaction to the Vision Pro sales pitch will be to ask, “What do I actually do with it?” And at the moment, the answer isn’t hugely satisfactory. You have video chats with people, you look at (impressively immersive) photos and videos, and you view your Mac desktop in a huge virtual environment. “Will there be spatial videos on YouTube?” Well, maybe, but there won’t be a YouTube app. You’ll need to view it through the browser. Same for Netflix shows. Same for music on Spotify. It’s just a bit… underwhelming.

And so it goes, round and round, a vicious circle with sharp edges. Don’t get the eyeballs, you don’t get the apps. Don’t get the apps, you don’t get the eyeballs. It’s amazing that any new tech platform ever takes off, really.

There are solutions, of course. You can bully people using your corporate muscle, or bribe them with quid pro quos. (Netflix CEO Greg Peters refers cryptically to “active discussions” about “how we could help each other out. Sometimes we find a great space of overlap.” Who knows what that means?) If you promise a developer stage time at WWDC, there’s a good chance they’ll play ball. If you’re a trusted partner with a strong relationship, developers might take a punt hoping for good things in the future, but as we discussed last week, that’s not Apple’s strength.

And the extra problem that Vision Pro faces is that it’s perceived to have a high barrier to entry. When Apple started the App Store, a lot of its success can be traced to the way that bedroom developers could easily knock up a cool simple iOS game and leap to the top of the charts, which triggered a goldrush of devs looking for a piece of the action. It’s hard to imagine anyone knocking up a spatial computing app after getting home from a shift at the supermarket. This is a platform that calls for corporate resources, which means middle managers asking questions about return on investment.

The most likely outcome is that Vision Pro will prosper as a platform, simply because Apple is about as close to “too big to fail” as exists in the tech industry today. Big names may stay away at first, but a few medium-sized developers will make a decent amount of money in the vacuum they leave, and things will gradually take off; a vicious circle can quickly be replaced by a virtuous one once momentum starts to build. I just can’t see it happening quickly, which will be a test of Apple’s patience. Netflix isn’t the only company that gets annoyed by things that are “not really yielding a return.”

Foundry

Trending: Top stories

The Galaxy S24 Ultra has a display feature iPhone users need to see to believe.

Apple Vision Pro is doomed until it gets the HomePod mini treatment.

Why does Apple Vision Pro come in such a huge box?

Real game streaming apps are finally coming to the iPhone.

Report claims Apple will still control and tax sideloaded apps.

Mac 40th-anniversary special

After 40 years, the Mac is immortal.

Can Apple Vision Pro help the Mac to last another 40 years?

Watch Steve Jobs reveal the very first Macintosh, back in 1984.

Watch the original Mac team reunite at CHM’s 40th-anniversary event.

Podcast of the week

In this episode of the Macworld Podcast, we talk to Will Mosgrove, the photographer behind the iconic Steve Jobs photo that appeared on the very first issue of Macworld 40 years ago.

You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.

Reviews corner

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro review: So close yet so far.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 review: A great smartwatch that isn’t worth the upgrade.

The rumor mill

Report details Apple’s massive AI plans for 2024.

Leaked renders reveal Apple’s surprising design choice for the 12.9-inch iPad Air.

Code snippet hints at new iPads with horizontal camera layout.

Report: The iPhone 16’s wild new Capture button will respond to swipes and pressure.

Apple may already have cornered the market on next-gen 2nm chips.

Software updates, bugs, and problems

iOS 17.3 is here with an important new iPhone security feature you’ll want right now.

Apple patches a serious zero-day vulnerability in new iOS, macOS, tvOS updates.

Google brings several AI features to the Mac with latest Chrome update.

Get a sneak peek at the new emoji coming in iOS 17.4.

Apple releases Vision Pro’s first software update… and it hasn’t even launched yet.

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 Facebook, Threads, or Twitter for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.

Apple Inc 

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