Apple just unveiled the launch date of its Vision Pro "spatial reality" headset as February 2. And while I'm about as excited as Om Malik regarding its creative potential (at least as a niche product), I'd be skeptical of any broad proclamations we're sure to see, of 2024 being the year that unleashed a paradigm-shifting spatial reality era.
Why? The basic fact that an augmented/mixed reality headset device costing some $3500, even from Apple, will only attract the hardest of hardcore consumers/developers. My prediction from last month, that the Vision Pro will sell under 250,000 units in the first year, still sounds right — and is actually on the optimistic side.
Here's the track record for the category so far:
- Google Glass, retailing at $1500, only sold a reported 10,000 units its first year of launch in 2012.
- Microsoft HoloLens, first sold in a developer edition for $3000, only sold around 50,000 units in its first two years (2016/2017).
- The Magic Leap One Creator Edition, launched in 2018 for $2,295, only sold 6,000 units in its first 6 months. Notably, the startup expected to sell "at least" 1 million units in its first year.
And these three fizzly launches happened despite the firepower of Google and Microsoft, and in Magic Leap's case, funding of $1.4 billion, with backing from Google, AT&T, and a who's who of Valley investors. I fully accept the premise that Apple will do a far, far better job at execution, creating a genuinely, magically appealing device. But even if that's the case, the high cost and historically low appeal of the form factor will still likely limit its first year sales. (And probably be a permanent barrier to mass market sales into the long term.)
Then again, based on reports from the Financial Times, Apple will only be able to actually produce some 400,000 units at launch. Longtime reader Martin K. believes this limited supply will paradoxically drive market interest:
That limited production capacity could (and I think will) lead to limited availability and that could/will trigger a couple of feed-back loops.
For example: limited availability could lead to perceived scarcity, which could lead to a perceived increased value, which could lead to increased demand, which could further limit availability.
And/or: limited availability in the US could lead to Apple postponing a launch in other countries, which could lead to many US sales that go into other countries, which could further limit availability in the US.
And/or: limited availability could increase second hand prices for the device, which could increase demand since more people will be willing to spend the money if they can be sure that they can sell the device second-hand for not much less than they paid if they don't want to keep it.
And of course, Apple won't like the limited production capacity. But apparently, they cannot avoid it this year.
That sounds quite plausible! In any case, it's highly unlikely we'll see a Vision Pro install base reach seven figures in its first few years on the market, if at all. That would not necessarily be a failure — especially if VisionPro becomes the replacement to the Mac Pro for professional developers. But we should be cautious about any Spatial Computing Era rhetoric unless and until Vision Pro sales reach the millions and then tens of millions of units.
Please support posts like these by buying Making a Metaverse That Matters!