Apple Vision Pro is the future of the Mac, says Ben Thompson

Apple Vision Pro. Apple Strategery founder Ben Thompson believes Apple’s Vision Pro is the “future of the Mac.” The iPad has long been limited as a productivity tool due to touch input and operating system limitations. The Vision Pro’s ability to extend a Mac desktop could be crucial for productivity.

Stratechery founder Ben Thompson, a well-known technology analyst, believes that Apple’s new AR/VR headset is not only a new computing platform in its own right, but could also be a valuable accessory for the company’s desktop computers.

Unveiled at Monday’s WWDC keynote, the Vision Pro is Apple’s much-anticipated foray into augmented and virtual reality — headset-based, or “spatial computing” as the company calls it.

The Vision Pro will start at $3,499, which is a steep price and likely reflects the cost of making a complex product. But that will certainly diminish over time, and Apple has rolled out a range of rich features for the headset, including immersive FaceTime calls, gaming applications, and the ability to extend a person’s Mac desktop into their surroundings.

This creates virtually unlimited space and frees users from the limitations of a typical 13-inch or 15-inch MacBook display. Although the Vision Pro is designed to be used with hand gestures, wearers can connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse if they wish to mirror their desktop.

An example of what Apple Vision Pro might look like at work. Apple

From Thompson’s point of view, Apple’s idea that the iPad would be a productivity device never quite caught on due to the limited nature of the operating system. iPadOS is cumbersome, partly because it requires a few hurdles to get things done. Connecting other devices like hard drives and cameras has never been more intuitive. On Mac computers, users can download apps from anywhere or install custom shortcuts and other tools that iOS doesn’t allow. Mouse support isn’t great since apps are designed for touch input.

With access to an app store and a large developer community, the Vision Pro will be able to support productivity apps on their own, and apps created for the iPad can easily be ported to the Vision Pro. But Thompson also doesn’t think the Vision Pro itself will replace the Mac, as he doubts Apple will make it any less restrictive than iOS or iPadOS.

Those who attended WWDC in person and were able to try Vision Pro said it is a product that seeks purpose. That was a similar sentiment that surrounded the Apple Watch when it launched — Apple threw spaghetti at the wall, packed with a ton of features, hoping it would land on something people would want. The Vision Pro comes with a number of unsurprising features, but Thompson thinks people shouldn’t sleep on the headset’s ability to mirror a desktop computer.

“I think visionOS is a lot more compelling for productivity than iPad thanks to the infinite canvas it enables,” Thompson wrote in his Wednesday newsletter. “If you’re going through the same hurdles to getting things done that you do on iPad, then being able to project a Mac screen into the Vision Pro is crucial.”

Apple Vision Pro Apple

Thompson points out that Apple uses “high-bandwidth connections” to share desktop screens with the Vision Pro, and hints that it might establish a direct WiFi connection between the two devices to avoid lag. There’s also a chance Apple will allow wired connections one day, as the Vision Pro already uses a wired connection for the battery. The Mac can already be mirrored to an iPad via Apple’s Sidecar feature and works with minimal lag.

Overall, it’s an interesting way to think of the Vision Pro – not just as a standalone product, but as one that adds functionality and utility to the Mac lineup. The ability to extend a desktop computer into your own environment is not a new idea. Meta has demonstrated this with their Quest headsets in Workrooms rooms. Of course, the tight integration of Apple’s hardware and software ecosystem means the company’s headset works well with native support for FaceTime, iMessage, and other services that many rely on, making it a more compelling proposition. Apple’s polish may have been needed to create a mainstream market for headset computers.

If the extended desktop feature works well and the headset price drops (which it certainly will), then that feature alone could move units. Whether on a plane or train, Mac users aren’t limited by their small, claustrophobic MacBook screen that’s constantly flipping through apps or squeezing two windows side-by-side.

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