Vision Pro is Apple’s weirdest and riskiest product in years–and it shouldn’t stop there

Macworld

No matter what you think of its future prospects, we can all agree that the Apple Vision Pro is weird, right? One of the world’s most powerful companies has spent a decade preparing to ship a new product and platform that’s embodied in a $3,500 VR headset that lets you use apps in 3D space.

After a decade of steady and boring iteration, Vision Pro is… not that. And I love it.

Apple is so disciplined and conservative with its product choices and has largely benefited from that tendency. Pretty much every hardware product Apple ships sells in such great numbers that it makes it awfully hard to experiment in public. (The Sony-made displays in the Vision Pro are available in such limited supply that Apple won’t even be able to sell a million of them in the first year, which is probably just as well since the product is very much a version 1.0.)

While I admire the great care Apple takes before it brings a product to market, I do sometimes think that the company is missing out on some potentially great products because they’re not willing to get weird and risk failure. Consider the original MacBook Air, which was deeply weird but led to a second-generation model that became the template for Apple’s laptop design for the next decade!

The technology already exists today for Apple to create some wild stuff, the likes of which we’ve never seen from them. The Vision Pro has broken the seal. Let’s get weird, Apple.

Know when to fold ’em

For the iPhone and iPad, one clearly weird direction is foldable screens. Numerous reports suggest that Apple’s been playing with folding screens internally for years, but unlike some of its competitors, it’s never been willing to ship a folding product. Maybe it’s time to give that a try?

I’d love to see a smaller iPhone that folds out into something more like an iPad mini, providing a device that fits better in a pocket while still being able to stretch out when in use. Alternately, imagine an iPhone that starts with the size of something like a Pro Max but can be folded up to fit better in your pocket.

One of the great things about folding devices is that they can (optionally) display information when folded! I love the idea of Apple adapting widgets to make them viewable on a closed iPhone. I’m also already on the record about adding E-Ink displays to the outside of iPhones–imagine an iPhone that is any color you want it to be, and that can also display information right on its case!

Apple has filed patents for a foldable iPhone, but that doesn’t mean one will actually ship (but we hope it does).

USPTO

Now consider a folding iPad. Maybe it’s one that can be large when in use but small when tucked away. Or maybe it’s the size of a traditional iPad but can get folded down into something pocketable. Which one works better? I have no idea! Let’s experiment!

And let’s not leave the Apple Watch out of the weirdness. Some people prefer to wear no watch at all or prefer a more traditional watch. Apple could consider a screenless health band that syncs to the iPhone and contains all the important Apple Watch sensors, so people can close their rings while wearing a watch of their choice. (Even weirder, how about an Oura-like sensor ring you wear on a finger?)

Weird PCs

For years, PC manufacturers have tried all sorts of different shapes and sizes for laptops, while Apple has more or less stayed with a single, traditional design. (Except for the Touch Bar… that was weird in a bad way. Look, weird products can fail! That’s part of why they’re weird!)

What’s weirder than an iPad that can run macOS? How about a laptop that runs iOS rather than macOS? iPadOS actually runs really well in laptop configuration via the Magic Keyboard, but that’s not quite the same as a proper laptop shape. I still have some hope that the next generation of iPad Pro might feature a case that makes it more laptop-like (weird!) and that it might even run macOS via virtualization (weirder!), but that’s not going to help schools that might be interested in buying an iPadOS-based laptop that’s affordable.

You know what would be cool? If Apple made a Magic Trackpad that had a button panel like Elgato’s Stream Deck Mini.  

Elgato

And while I am not proposing that Apple change from the classic MacBook design, I love a weird outlier. The 12-inch MacBook, with its single USB port, was certainly weird–but it was also small and light and could be great if it was revived in Apple silicon form.

I also want some weird Mac accessories! How about a Magic Trackpad with an included Touch ID button? Not weird enough? Imagine if it also had a series of Stream Deck-inspired programmable keys.

Keep the weird at home

It’s easier for Apple to get weird with ancillary products. Consider the home, where Apple has been strangely silent beyond the Apple TV and HomePod. There’s so much that Apple should be trying in the home!

As someone who has had an Amazon Echo Show and a Nest Home in my kitchen in recent years, I’d love a HomePod with a screen that runs some version of tvOS. And it seems natural for Apple to build a product that’s part Apple TV, part HomePod, to create a smart soundbar (that could also integrate a Center Stage camera for full FaceTime compatibility).

I’m not saying that all (or even any!) of these are good ideas. What I’m saying is that if Apple would take the chance on four or five wild ideas, it might learn enough to create one or two hits. Given the sluggish growth in its Wearables, Home, and Accessories product category lately, it feels like it might be worth getting a little weird and risking failure to chart some new directions in home tech.

Similarly, just because the Mac is going great doesn’t mean it couldn’t be more. Experimenting with wilder laptop designs doesn’t necessarily mean the old models have to go away. Imagine if Tim Cook came into an executive meeting at Apple and demanded that every single portion of Apple’s product line included one outlier product, something weird that pushed the envelope a little bit. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Apple has a lot going on, and I know that every new project risks causing distraction at a company that’s already trying to do an awful lot at once. That’s why it has built up a culture of “a thousand no’s for every yes,” as the saying goes. And you know, that’s a pretty good strategy. But if Vision Pro has shown us anything, perhaps it’s that it’s worth giving out a few more answers of “yes” just to see what might happen next.

Apple Vision Pro




Virtual Reality, Wearables

​Macworld Macworld

No matter what you think of its future prospects, we can all agree that the Apple Vision Pro is weird, right? One of the world’s most powerful companies has spent a decade preparing to ship a new product and platform that’s embodied in a $3,500 VR headset that lets you use apps in 3D space.

After a decade of steady and boring iteration, Vision Pro is… not that. And I love it.

Apple is so disciplined and conservative with its product choices and has largely benefited from that tendency. Pretty much every hardware product Apple ships sells in such great numbers that it makes it awfully hard to experiment in public. (The Sony-made displays in the Vision Pro are available in such limited supply that Apple won’t even be able to sell a million of them in the first year, which is probably just as well since the product is very much a version 1.0.)

While I admire the great care Apple takes before it brings a product to market, I do sometimes think that the company is missing out on some potentially great products because they’re not willing to get weird and risk failure. Consider the original MacBook Air, which was deeply weird but led to a second-generation model that became the template for Apple’s laptop design for the next decade!

The technology already exists today for Apple to create some wild stuff, the likes of which we’ve never seen from them. The Vision Pro has broken the seal. Let’s get weird, Apple.

Know when to fold ’em

For the iPhone and iPad, one clearly weird direction is foldable screens. Numerous reports suggest that Apple’s been playing with folding screens internally for years, but unlike some of its competitors, it’s never been willing to ship a folding product. Maybe it’s time to give that a try?

I’d love to see a smaller iPhone that folds out into something more like an iPad mini, providing a device that fits better in a pocket while still being able to stretch out when in use. Alternately, imagine an iPhone that starts with the size of something like a Pro Max but can be folded up to fit better in your pocket.

One of the great things about folding devices is that they can (optionally) display information when folded! I love the idea of Apple adapting widgets to make them viewable on a closed iPhone. I’m also already on the record about adding E-Ink displays to the outside of iPhones–imagine an iPhone that is any color you want it to be, and that can also display information right on its case!

Apple has filed patents for a foldable iPhone, but that doesn’t mean one will actually ship (but we hope it does).USPTO

Now consider a folding iPad. Maybe it’s one that can be large when in use but small when tucked away. Or maybe it’s the size of a traditional iPad but can get folded down into something pocketable. Which one works better? I have no idea! Let’s experiment!

And let’s not leave the Apple Watch out of the weirdness. Some people prefer to wear no watch at all or prefer a more traditional watch. Apple could consider a screenless health band that syncs to the iPhone and contains all the important Apple Watch sensors, so people can close their rings while wearing a watch of their choice. (Even weirder, how about an Oura-like sensor ring you wear on a finger?)

Weird PCs

For years, PC manufacturers have tried all sorts of different shapes and sizes for laptops, while Apple has more or less stayed with a single, traditional design. (Except for the Touch Bar… that was weird in a bad way. Look, weird products can fail! That’s part of why they’re weird!)

What’s weirder than an iPad that can run macOS? How about a laptop that runs iOS rather than macOS? iPadOS actually runs really well in laptop configuration via the Magic Keyboard, but that’s not quite the same as a proper laptop shape. I still have some hope that the next generation of iPad Pro might feature a case that makes it more laptop-like (weird!) and that it might even run macOS via virtualization (weirder!), but that’s not going to help schools that might be interested in buying an iPadOS-based laptop that’s affordable.

You know what would be cool? If Apple made a Magic Trackpad that had a button panel like Elgato’s Stream Deck Mini.  Elgato

And while I am not proposing that Apple change from the classic MacBook design, I love a weird outlier. The 12-inch MacBook, with its single USB port, was certainly weird–but it was also small and light and could be great if it was revived in Apple silicon form.

I also want some weird Mac accessories! How about a Magic Trackpad with an included Touch ID button? Not weird enough? Imagine if it also had a series of Stream Deck-inspired programmable keys.

Keep the weird at home

It’s easier for Apple to get weird with ancillary products. Consider the home, where Apple has been strangely silent beyond the Apple TV and HomePod. There’s so much that Apple should be trying in the home!

As someone who has had an Amazon Echo Show and a Nest Home in my kitchen in recent years, I’d love a HomePod with a screen that runs some version of tvOS. And it seems natural for Apple to build a product that’s part Apple TV, part HomePod, to create a smart soundbar (that could also integrate a Center Stage camera for full FaceTime compatibility).

I’m not saying that all (or even any!) of these are good ideas. What I’m saying is that if Apple would take the chance on four or five wild ideas, it might learn enough to create one or two hits. Given the sluggish growth in its Wearables, Home, and Accessories product category lately, it feels like it might be worth getting a little weird and risking failure to chart some new directions in home tech.

Similarly, just because the Mac is going great doesn’t mean it couldn’t be more. Experimenting with wilder laptop designs doesn’t necessarily mean the old models have to go away. Imagine if Tim Cook came into an executive meeting at Apple and demanded that every single portion of Apple’s product line included one outlier product, something weird that pushed the envelope a little bit. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Apple has a lot going on, and I know that every new project risks causing distraction at a company that’s already trying to do an awful lot at once. That’s why it has built up a culture of “a thousand no’s for every yes,” as the saying goes. And you know, that’s a pretty good strategy. But if Vision Pro has shown us anything, perhaps it’s that it’s worth giving out a few more answers of “yes” just to see what might happen next.

Apple Vision Pro

Read our review

Virtual Reality, Wearables 

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