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Apple is set to launch its mixed-reality headset this year, according to multiple reports. The device will be capable of both augmented reality and virtual reality experiences and is expected to be unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.
However, a report from the Financial Times has shed light on the internal debates at Apple over the decision to launch the headset now.
The report suggests that Jeff Williams, who leads the operations team, was in favor of launching a bulky and expensive headset as soon as possible, while members of the design team preferred to wait until a lightweight AR glasses product was feasible.
Apple CEO Tim Cook ultimately backed the operations team, believing it made sense to enter the market now, even if the first-generation Reality Pro headset is expected to be of limited appeal to consumers and priced around $3,000.
The first-generation headset is said to feature dual 4K OLED displays and advanced eye-and-hand-tracking sensors, making it a technologically advanced device. However, it is also expected to be relatively bulky and have a short battery life of around two hours per session. Apple expects to sell around one million units in the first year.
The Financial Times report suggests that this divide between the operations and design teams is reflective of a wider shift in the company’s structure over the last decade.
Under Steve Jobs, the design team drove most decisions, while operations served their wishes. However, under Cook, operations have gained more power and visibility in the executive ranks.
The launch of the mixed reality headset will be a key moment for Tim Cook’s legacy as CEO, as it represents the second major new product launch of his tenure, following the Apple Watch in 2015. Cook has indicated that he plans to retire within the next decade, meaning that the headset could be his last major product launch.
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Despite the expected limited appeal of the first-generation headset, Apple will be hoping for it to be well-received and plans to follow up with iterative improvements in future years. A lower-priced second-generation device is already said to be in development.
While the decision to launch the mixed reality headset now may be divisive within Apple, it represents a bold move into a rapidly growing market that is expected to be worth $209 billion by 2022. With a history of innovation and design excellence, Apple will undoubtedly bring its unique approach to the mixed reality space, and we can expect to see exciting developments in the coming years.