More Like 'Vision No'

A second Vision Pro may be on hold, at least for now
Apple Suspends Work on Next Vision Pro, Focused on Releasing Cheaper Model in Late 2025
Apple’s decision to halt work on the next version of its high-end headset is the latest example of the company reshuffling priorities.

A scoop pretty much everyone who follows the Vision Pro assumed would be coming at some point:

Apple has told at least one supplier that it has suspended work on its next high-end Vision headset, an employee at a manufacturer that makes key components for the Vision Pro said. The pullback comes as analysts and supply chain partners have flagged slowing sales of the $3,500 device.

The company is still working on releasing a more affordable Vision product with fewer features before the end of 2025, the person involved in its supply chain and a person involved in the manufacturing of the headsets said. Apple originally planned to divide its Vision line into two models, similar to the standard and Pro versions of the iPhone, according to people involved in its supply chain and former Apple employees who worked on the devices.

Relying on one source from a supplier seems a bit suspect (the second source seems to just be around the company continuing work on the "more affordable" Vision Pro), but The Information and Wayne Ma in particular has done enough good reporting around the device that this should be taken seriously. And it will be to the point where if it's absolutely not true, Apple would likely have to say something (or leak something out there to make that known). If we hear crickets...

And various other reports all have been pointing in this general direction for some time. As has plain old common sense. As I wrote back in April:

Arguing about the shipment projections for Apple's Vision Pro is sort of like arguing about how many tickets were sold on the fateful Hindenburg journey. For one thing, we're going to find out the number one way or another, eventually. For another, we're sort of overlooking the massive airship exploding in the sky.

Two things can be true: the Vision Pro can be a technical marvel and yet the Vision Pro can also be a building PR disaster for Apple.

And so I'm left wondering why Apple didn't take a totally different approach here. Why didn't they simply release the initial batches of Vision Pro as a true dev kit? I know this isn't really Apple's playbook, but they've also done it to varying degrees in the past when needed, such as with the Mac transitions to new CPUs. Obviously this is quite different as a full-on new product category for Apple. But I'm just not sure they've done themselves any favors by releasing the Vision Pro into the world given the current state of things.

Back to The Information report:

Apple began work in 2022 on a cheaper Vision product, internally code-named N109, The Information previously reported. The company’s aim is to make this version as affordable as a high-end iPhone, which retails for up to $1,600. At the time it started the work, Apple aimed to release the more affordable product at the end of 2024.

As of earlier this year, Apple still didn’t have a firm prototype of N109, according to a person involved in its manufacturing. And the company has been struggling to find ways to cut the model’s cost without losing too many key features, which means the product could likely slip beyond its revised release date for the end of 2025.

A more affordable version obviously makes sense – but only if several other things are true by the time it is released: notably, a robust app ecosystem for the device and a rich pipeline of content. Apple has been badly dropping the ball on both to date, can they pick it up? There are signs, but I still like my hindsight strategy:

Back to my hypothetical, after a year or so of only select developers being allowed inside of Willy Wonka's factory, you throw open the gates in 2025. By then, the $3,500 dev kit can be sold for $2,499 – or even better, $1,999. Still way too expensive, but such is the way of Apple. Maybe EyeSight works better by then after another year baking. Or maybe it's scrapped for the consumer release, improving battery life, weight, and cost. Personas is perfected (rather than rolling out in piecemeal fashion). Certainly far more 'Apple Immersive' content is ready to roll. As are games. A few truly innovative apps have been created by developers given enough time to work. And so on...

Meanwhile, Apple can focus more on getting AI answers out the door to please Wall Street, while not having to put out any and every Vision Pro public fire in real time. WWDC 2024 gets a few key Vision Pro updates and the developer pool is greatly expanded to those attendees of the event, with a consumer launch stated to be "early 2025". But the event itself is mainly AI, AI, AI, AI, AI.

Apple was unlucky in that they could not have known how fast AI would take over, well, everything. Sure, they had also been working on that technology, but they clearly didn't know it would be the focal point from Wall Street on down this quickly. To the point where NVIDIA passed Apple in market cap. And, in fact, is now the most valuable company in the world.

At WWDC, Apple devoted just a few minutes to Vision Pro, in the form of visionOS 2. The version of the OS which the product probably should have launched with (and would have in my scenario). It was really quite sad given all the hype during the launch exactly a year prior on stage at the same event. No sales numbers were given – the only numbers given were how many overall compatible apps there were thanks to the conversion of iPad apps. When Apple has great sales numbers, they tout them. With Vision Pro, Apple does not have great sales numbers. And the upcoming international launches isn't likely to change that. But hey, enterprise loves the device!

So where do we go from here? I go back to my conclusion:

So I guess the best we can hope for is a full reset of the line in 2026. And the best Apple can hope for is that enough time has past that the aroma of stink no longer lingers. That the content coffers are filled. That the apps have arrived. And that the ever-charging progress of technology has shrunk components and costs enough to make this a much different value proposition. Of all those, the latter is probably the most likely. Which is still problematic for Apple.

Apple perhaps just learned the same lesson Meta did a couple years ago: that the market doesn't want or need a higher-end version of a headset yet. The only problem here is that unlike with Meta, that's the only version Apple has anywhere close to market. Now they'll apparently go downstream and hope that they can swim back upstream later.

Apparently, you can't have Vision Pro without Vision.

Oh, the Humanity of Vision Pro
Apple really should have released the Vision Pro as a dev kit