Apple’s AR/VR headset plan causes internal divisions

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Internal divisions are reportedly arising at Apple over its much-anticipated AR/VR headset.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and COO Jeff Williams are said to be pushing to launch the headset as soon as possible, even if its design isn’t optimal.

Designers at Apple are said to have disagreed with their leadership and want to wait until it’s feasible to launch a product that is lighter and less expensive. Current price estimates for the headset are between $2,000 and $3,000.

In a report, the Financial Times wrote:

“Apple’s operations team wanted to ship a ‘version one’ product, a ski goggle-like headset that will allow users to watch immersive 3D video, perform interactive workouts or chat with realistic avatars through a revamped FaceTime.

But Apple’s famed industrial design team had cautioned patience, wanting to delay until a more lightweight version of AR glasses became technically feasible.”

Apple’s debut AR/VR headset will be designed for short stints of usage and can therefore get away with being a bit more cumbersome than something that is to be used all day.

Cook recently said that people shouldn’t be encouraged to “live their whole lives” in a virtual world. However, Apple job listings suggest the company is still looking for talent to help build a 3D mixed reality world. Even if developers haven’t updated their apps to take advantage of the headset’s abilities, users will reportedly be able to access all current App Store apps in a 2D form.

A second headset project is underway at Apple that is purely for AR and will be similar to standard glasses that a user can wear throughout their day to augment the world around them. That project is still in its early stages and it’s expected to be at least several years before it becomes technologically feasible.

Cook appears to be far more positive towards people spending more time using AR since they’ll still be connected to the world around them. He notably called AR “the next big thing” and that it will “pervade our entire lives”.

Competition is growing in the VR space which is why Apple’s leadership appears to be pushing for a product to be released sooner rather than later. Apple can afford to wait longer when it comes to AR glasses.

The situation shows how the power balance at Apple has shifted under Cook’s tenure. In the Jobs era, the design team held arguably the most sway and operations would accommodate their decisions.

In 2019, Apple’s legendary design lieutenant Jony Ive departed the company after 22 years. His replacement, Evans Hankey, announced that she is leaving Apple this year. Instead of announcing a replacement for Hankey, Apple’s design team will report to COO Jeff Williams.

(Photo by Laurenz Heymann on Unsplash)

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