Just days after the Mac’s 40th anniversary. Apple Vision Pro is available today in stores and shipped pre-orders. We aren’t the first nor last to make that comparison, which is arguably risky territory in terms of setting overblown expectations for Vision Pro. But there are parallels.
Both devices were/are first steps in a long journey. And both were/are prohibitively expensive – the Mac weighing in heavier in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars (more on that in a bit). But AVP largely won’t be viewed in that light, as haters-gonna-hate fare makes better hot takes.
In a similar sense, the interweb has been clogged with wannabe punditry since Apple unveiled Vision Pro in June. Legions of noobs are suddenly spatial computing experts. As we said at the time, beware of analysis from anyone who hasn’t touched the device, or isn’t versed in AR.
So why should you listen to us? This publication and its research arm ARtillery Intelligence have covered AR and spatial computing since 2016. And we’ve been writing about Apple since 2001. We don’t do hardware reviews (plenty of others do that really well) but rather market analysis.
So on those levels, what is Vision Pro? Who’s it meant for? And how does it fit into Apple’s future-proofing plan? The TLDR version is that Apple, true to form, is playing a long game. Don’t dwell on AVP’s specs or price tag, but its alignment with a signature Apple product lifecycle.
Starting with the price tag, it’s Vision Pro’s biggest sticking point. Back to those breathless editorials from AR noobs, no one cares about proclamations that they won’t be buying it. This device isn’t for them. It’s to plant a flag for a first-generation device, and to do so Apple’s way.
V1 can also be seen as a dev kit. Buyers will be fanboys, wealthy early adopters, and developers (‘Pro’ is in the title, after all). The latter will view it as an early-mover advantage in starting to build muscles for spatial app development – a potentially coveted skill if all goes well.
For Apple, this translates to demonstrating what’s possible at any cost in V1, then improving, shrinking, and lowering costs over successive generations. Along the way, the device will carry Apple’s signature exclusivity, with scarcity ensured by a demand-constraining price.
This engineered status will drive Vision Pro’s elite vibes for several generations to come. It’s similar to Tesla’s early strategy: It was cost-prohibitive at first, endowing a certain elite status. Then when the price dropped and supply grew, all that built-up demand fueled years of sales.
A better example is Apple itself. Early desktop computers were exorbitantly priced. According to AR engineering and optics maven Karl Guttag, an Apple 2 with 4k of RAM was initially US$1,298. That’s the equivalent of $6,268 in today’s dollars – almost double AVP’s launch price.
Further supporting the theory behind elite/exclusive vibes, AVP’s sales process will carry the same torch. Sales that take place in Apple Stores will be a velvet rope experience, including demos by appointment – sort of like the way you buy high-end jewelry or, again, a new Tesla.
Speaking of jewelry, AVP fits into another key factor: wearables. Stepping back, Apple’s game plan these days is all about revenue diversification. As smartphones reach maturity and revenue deceleration, it has to find other large-scale ways to maintain revenue growth.
This is the raison d’être for wearables and services. And AVP feeds into both. For wearables, revenue growth each quarter mostly offsets a declining iPhone growth rate. Consequently, wearables hold a great deal of importance, investment, and political capital in Cupertino.
AVP plugs right into that plan in that it will sync with sensory experiences in Watch and AirPods. Visuals join spatial audio and biometrics (think: fitness & meditation). And Apple’s signature ARPU-boosting ecosystem approach incentivizes you to own several devices for continuity.
In fact, Apple has already gotten started with these integrations and gave us a few clues. Apple Watch now has the same finger-tap gestural input as AVP, while AirPods support low-latency spatial audio. Lastly and most notably, the iPhone 15 records spatial video for AVP playback.
As for services, including AppleTV+, AVP is positioned as an elite and immersive consumption experience. This was one of the biggest points of emphasis in its unveiling, including massive virtual screens (Apple finally developed a TV), and serene viewing environments.
Moreover, Apple will cultivate a use case around spectator sports, including courtside seats for 180-degree immersive viewing. These dots can be connected if you look at its acquisition of NextVR, as well as its MLS and MLB streaming rights, and ongoing discussions with the NBA.
Sights & Sounds
Sticking with sports, AVP has the potential to tap into their visceral and participatory nature. That value is amplified wherever front-row seats carry a premium. It’s all about the squeaking hardwood in basketball or the sound of slapshots and bodies smashing into boards in hockey.
The unit economics also work. If Apple can sell live virtual front-row seats for $9 – or bundled season passes for superfans – it could reach a sizable market. That market also scales beyond the geographic constraints of a given team. There’s a massive NBA following in China.
For fans, this doesn’t beat attending live but immerses them in the action for a fraction of the price, time, and effort. Both modalities will coexist as Vision Pro augments fan experiences. It will take a while for Apple to scale it, including lowering AVP’s price, but this is its starting point.
Similar sequences will unfold as AVP accelerates or initiates other industry disruptions. Beyond entertainment, that includes Apple’s existing moves into healthcare and productivity. Other verticals will follow – some hidden within Apple’s master plan, and others to be discovered.
In the meantime, Vision Pro has a decent start with 200,000 estimated units sold in pre-orders. Though that’s nowhere near iPhone scale (the iPhone didn’t reach iPhone scale in its first week either), it has eclipsed analyst estimates and doubled the AR glasses market in 7 days.
In a broader sense, Vision Pro won’t replace the iPhone nor be as ubiquitous. It will be big and expensive for several generations. But it will be a key puzzle piece for Apple’s signature multi-device ecosystem approach. And like the Mac and iPhone, that will subsume decades.