Reported mixed feelings on Mixed Reality

Discord stories surrounding Apple’s MR headset, Tim Cook taking a big trip to China and new titles teased for Apple TV+.

Negativity and doubt surrounding Apple’s mixed reality headset

Four Sides of Doubt. On Sunday, The New York Times ran a lengthy article about the turmoil at Apple over the company’s anticipated mixed reality headset. Single lined but with paragraph breaks, rendered in 12pt, it was four pages about the high price, the relatively small number of first round units expected to be sold, Jony Ive left four years ago and “rare disagreements” therein Apple about the expected product.

Five years ago, the piece says, I showed Apple’s top 100 executives a video that illustrated what a good augmented reality device could do. “But now,” according to the Times:

…As the company prepares to launch the headset in June, excitement at Apple has given way to skepticism, said eight current and former employees who asked for anonymity because of Apple’s policy not to talk about future products. There are concerns about the device’s roughly $3,000 price tag, doubts about its usefulness, and worries about its unproven market.

Four pages – not that everything was negative. “Apple’s headset is considered a pioneer in virtual and augmented reality,” the article states, although it goes on to say:

… the journey to deploying augmented reality has been littered with failures, false starts and disappointments, from Google Glass to Magic Leap and from Microsoft’s HoloLens to Meta’s Quest Pro. Apple is viewed as a potential savior due to its success in combining new hardware and software to create revolutionary devices. Nevertheless, the challenges are enormous.

Although bordering on negativity, the piece contains interesting ideas. With a likely focus on “co-presence”, business applications and doubling as a tool for artists, designers and engineers, the first version of the headset could be aimed at a select group of users, with later versions aimed at the general consumer. We heard this idea twice over the weekend – once from the New York Times and once from Bloomberg. We’ll come to the latter in a moment. The New York Times article quoted and compared Matthew Ball, author of The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything:

…[Apple’s] Strategy with this device on Tesla’s strategy with the Roadster, its initial $100,000 electric vehicle. Eventually, Tesla followed with lower-priced cars with broader appeal.

Similarly, Carolina Milanesi — a consumer tech analyst at Creative Strategies — compares Apple’s headset approach to the Apple Watch’s approach. Originally intended as an extension of the iPhone, as users became deeply involved with the watch’s fitness features, Apple tended to sell it as a fitness device.

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Hoping the headset follows a familiar trajectory

As for our friends at Bloomberg, Mark Gurman explained in Sunday’s Power On newsletter in the headline: “Apple’s best hope for a new headset: a smartwatch-like trajectory.”

There is also a lot of uncertainty in this piece, if not downright negativity. Quoting Gurman:

Mixed reality — a category that blends augmented and virtual reality — is still an emerging field and far more risky than Apple’s previous attempts to establish new beachheads. With the Mac, iPod, iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad, the company essentially created a better version of a product people were familiar with. With the headset, Apple will have to explain to consumers why they want to own such a product in the first place.

But they seem engaged. Locked up, if you will. Remember those 100 executives Jony Ive is said to have shown an AR explainer five years ago? They (or their remaining peers) reportedly gathered at Apple Park last week for a demo of the mixed reality device. Not the first time, according to Gurman. He says they’ve seen demos since 2018. “But,” he writes:

… this time it was different. Previous demonstrations have been minor affairs designed to show progress and secure the number of staff needed to continue. The latest preview took place at the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple’s largest showcase, suggesting a public unveiling is near.

Gurman goes on to say that the “demonstrations were polished, glittery and exciting…” Now comes the part where they have to create a new market from practically nothing.

Tim Cook speaks at the China Development Forum

If you were so inclined, you could probably write a book about Tim Cook’s weekend. It wouldn’t just cover the 48 hours of course, but I’d argue a book could be written.

Or maybe Aaron Sorkin could write a movie.

A 9to5Mac article said Apple’s CEO stopped by Apple Sanlitun in Beijing earlier this weekend. That was before a speech at the China Development Forum. Dubbed “a state-sponsored ‘Chinese economic summit'” in the article, 9to5 had Bloomberg Cook listed as:

… one of very few US leaders who will attend the conference, “underscoring the increasing tenderness of doing business in China in the current geopolitical climate.”

The approximately 100 foreign representatives present said the list was “easy for US companies.” Pfizer’s CEO was the only other US executive mentioned. Of course, Cook didn’t just go to see, he also went to say. A separate article from 9to5Mac (this one citing a Financial Times report) gleaned from Cook’s speech such comments as: “Apple and China have grown together, so this was a symbiotic type of relationship… We couldn’t be more excited” and “Innovation is China is developing rapidly and I believe it will continue to accelerate.”

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Cook mentioned Apple’s “very large supply chain in China” and the many Apple retail locations in China. Apparently, he didn’t mention “US-China tensions and supply chain issues.” The piece also says:

…Cook spoke about education and the “need for young people to learn critical thinking in programming”. He also announced that Apple “plans to increase spending on its rural education program to 100 million yuan.”

That’s just over $14.5 million for those earning points at home. 9to5Mac says Cook’s visit and comments come as Apple actively seeks to diversify its supply chain outside of China.”

See? Feels like it’s going to make a decent Aaron Sorkin movie.

You hear more about unreleased earables

More talk about new earables from Apple. In the middle of last week, I told you about clues reportedly found in the iOS 16.4 release candidate for two new pairs of earbuds. One was said to be a pair of unreleased AirPods and an unreleased AirPods case. The other is said to be an unreleased pair of Beats Studio Buds+, itself an unreleased product that follows the Beats Studio Buds of 2021.

TF International analyst Ming-Chi Kuo commented on the former over the weekend. Speaking on Twitter last Friday, Young MC said:

I think this is likely the USB-C version of the AirPods Pro 2, with bulk shipments expected in 2Q23-3Q23. Incidentally, Apple doesn’t seem to have any plans for USB-C versions of the AirPods 2 & 3 at this time.

Security feature in iOS 16.4 can automatically dim flashing videos

News about a really interesting health-related change in iOS 16.4. According to an iDownloadBlog article, the upcoming operating system will be able to “automatically dim epilepsy-inducing flashing lights on videos.” Explaining the problem, the play states:

People suffering from motion sickness and (people with epilepsy) may experience seizures, headaches and other symptoms when exposed to flashing lights. For this reason, movies and TV shows with flashing visual effects will show a warning.

According to iDownloadBlog, iOS 16.4 will allow users to enable a feature to “automatically dim videos when flickering or strobing is detected.” Disabled by default, users with epilepsy or prone to motion sickness will be able to turn on the safety feature when the update is released by going to Settings, then Accessibility, then Motion in the Vision section, then flipping the dim blinking light switch to ON.

Teaser TV title Apple TV+ sets release date for comedy series Platonic

News of two new Apple TV+ titles to end today. In a few months, Apple issued a press release teasing the comedy series Platonic. Therefore:

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“Platonic” follows a platonic couple of ex-best friends approaching midlife (…) who find each other after a long rift. The duo’s friendship becomes all-consuming – and hilariously destabilizes their lives.

The 10-episode comedy is executive produced by Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen. This will be Byrne’s second show for the Cupertino streamer. She has already starred in two seasons of the ’80s dramedy Physical, with a third season set to follow later this year. This will be Rogen’s first title for Apple TV+, although a second is in the works. The publication states that he will “also star in an upcoming untitled comedy series for Apple TV+, which he will write, direct and executive produce…”

No word in the release as to when this second series will premiere. Although there is no trailer for Platonic yet, there is a release date. Byrne and Rogen’s comedy stylings arrive on Apple TV+ on Wednesday, May 24.

Apple TV+ announces release date and trailer for Boris Becker Docuseries

And finally, Apple TV+ used to have something less fictional and more dramatic today. In a separate press release, the Cupertino streamer provided a release date and trailer for “Boom! Boom! The world against Boris Becker.” According to the publication:

The docuseries examines every aspect of the man who became a tennis sensation after winning the Wimbledon Championships aged just 17, winning 49 career titles including six Grand Slams and an Olympic gold medal, and his high profile, sometimes turbulent personal life.

Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney and Academy Award-winning producer John Battsek say in the publication that they “had special access to Becker” for “more than three years” until his sentencing last April because of their assets and had hidden loans to avoid paying his debts.” The publication tells the show:

… features a series of personal interviews with Becker, including an exclusive chat with the champion the week of his sentencing, alongside members of his immediate family and tennis stars including John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Novak Djokovic, Mats Wilander and Michael Stich.

“Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker” will be released on Apple TV+ on Friday, April 7. You can watch the trailer now on YouTube.

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast

TMO Editor-in-Chief Jeff Butts and I discuss Apple’s one or two MR hits from Bloomberg and the New York Times. Plus: Tim Cook’s trip to China, the stilted Steve Jobs ghost in the machine, and MLS are all coming out for Mailbag Monday. That’s all today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast.