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Apple would be smart to delay the Reality Pro from WWDC

A new report says the highly anticipated Reality Pro headset from Apple has once again been delayed and may not make an appearance at WWDC 2023 after all. It comes from a reputable source too, the analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, and just a day after the official event was announced.

On one hand, I’m a little disappointed by the new rumor. We’ve all been hearing about this rumored headset for years now, and the multiple delays have left me so curious about what Apple has worked up. Apple rarely launches new product categories, and when it does, it’s usually a pretty big deal. It’s been eight years since the original Apple Watch, and the tech industry feels ready for another shake-up.

On the other hand, now’s really not a good time, and I think Apple knows it.

A rendering of an Apple mixed-reality headset (Reality Pro) in a gray color seen from the front.
Apple headset render Ahmed Chenni, Freelancer.com

The idea of the metaverse isn’t exactly in vogue right now. The concept has been championed most strongly by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who’s own enthusiasm caused him to rename his entire company. The Meta Quest Pro, an expensive headset with a focus on its mixed reality capabilities, came out last year. It was a preview of the future, but not exactly a practical consumer product. And with revenue on the decline and the tech industry in a rough patch, even Zuckerberg is downplaying his metaverse ambitions these days.

That already sounded like a challenging environment for Apple to launch its own headset in. The company has already disavowed the term “metaverse,” but it would need something very convincing to turn around public opinion about the concept. Given the rumored price of the Reality Pro, it would need a compelling use case for such a device, which companies like HTC and Meta have struggled to show. Throw in troubling times in the economy, and you have an uphill battle when trying to convince people to invest in a brand new piece of technology.

But Apple’s done it before, so it at least felt possible.

Tim Cook at WWDC 2022.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Then, 2023 happened, and the real tech trend emerged in the form of generative AI. ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, and Midjourney took the world by storm, rocking the tech industry in a way it hasn’t been in a long time. Unlike the metaverse, the practical use case for this breed of AI was everywhere you looked. People couldn’t wait to try it out for themselves, and in many ways, we’re all still basking in the glow of that excitement. The future feels undetermined and exciting, and not since the birth of Apple’s own iOS App Store has there been this much interest from developers.

Since the explosion of interest in December, Apple hasn’t made a peep about the whole thing. Microsoft and Google are battling it out with their own implementations, and Apple has been utterly quiet. If the company were to show up at WWDC talking about trends from 2020, it’s going to look supremely out of touch.

I don’t know how Apple is going to handle the topic of AI. It may not talk about it at all at WWDC 2023. Either way, an expensive mixed reality headset isn’t going to get investors or the public excited in the way ChatGPT has. If it’s smart, Apple will hold the Reality Pro for another time.

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Luke Larsen
Luke Larsen is the Senior editor of computing, managing all content covering laptops, monitors, PC hardware, Macs, and more.
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