Apple Vision Pro day 1
apple's new product, spatial computing, and ai announcements coming later this year
it takes a village.
during the summer of last year, I was finishing a morning meeting took the time to check out wwdc 2023. the success of apple products is tethered to what developers make for the products and platform, and thus wwdc always has been a likely candidate for unleashing next gen products. on this morning, i watched with anticipation like i always do. towards what felt like the end of the event, tim came back into the presentation and muttered some exciting words “we have one more thing”. there have been some new devices, like the ultra that i have enjoyed. this day was different. you can watch the whole event here.
vision pro is our introduction to what apple is calling spatial computing, an entirely new dimension to technology for designers and engineers, and clearly only the first product in the vision category. Here are some good places to start: visionOS, spatial computing.
steve jobs, tim cook, and apple famously organized apple to have simplified roadmap that with the goal of making better products and less of them. even though apple has generally not been introducing completely new form factors, another iphone is not just another iphone, and apples entire family of products, and how they all work together, has been getting better each passing season (conway’s law?).
product design is a practical art form: and apple is still the best at making consumer hardware and they do it on a very global scale these days. keychain + passkeys work seamlessly across devices, biometrics like fingerprint, face id, and now optic id. users can choose to store data locally on their devices. gestures and user interaction patterns are designed and built as a system to compliment each other. retail, service & repair, and support match the same quality bar. swift is good.
on the 30%: apple is far from perfect, and apple taking a 30% cut is far from ideal and sustainable, but i still think people often underestimate the value they deliver to both makers and users of their products. it’s important to awk the tradeoffs of apple and the decisions they’ve made as a company. but when apple first launched an app store with the iphone, google + android did too, and began automating the app review process. apple took a different approach and human reviewed each app on their store. at the time, it was not obvious that this was worth 30% of revenue from each app in it’s store, and people actually ridiculed these decisions at the time by apple at the time. for users, iOS apps became trusted, and as the web became more difficult to navigate + stay clear of scams, particularly for non technical folks, native apple apps could be trusted and provided a safe place for apple device users in their digital worlds. today, it’s less obvious that 30% is sustainable or fair, and i hope they evolve their position to repair their relationship with developers who feel burnt by their aggressive take rate and what’s often referred to as a walled garden. at the same time, i think it’s important to acknowledge the value they do deliver to both users and builders, and to reflect on how we got were we are today. hopefully the next generation of devices, including those in the vision family, along with details from their ai announcements in the coming year(s) will help repair their relationship with those who are excited and eager to build native apps for apple products. (they should take a note out of metas new playbook with llama 3).
they have an opportunity to gain some trust back with the devs in the coming years by continuing to deliver more value to them, and ideally includes supporting open source models to run locally on their devices, and could include details that give engineers and developers to more ai resources to build on, while continuing to execute against their stated principles of building their consumer technology ecosystem to give customers control their privacy and security. i personally believe most individuals under estimate the importance of consumer hardware being built around this control, and think apple is the best option we have thus far.
the other day, apple showed off a clip called ‘making vision pro’. they seem to be leaning into marketing that shows off the continued evolution of manufacturing automation & robotics that are making next gen devices. this is interesting because I imagine it will impact the way people perceive apple’s brand, particular relative to concerns about the labor ethics for those participating in the manufacturing and assembly of products like the iphone. this video reminds me of the tesla playbook + manufacturing videos they’ve flashed in the past: 5 yrs ago, making the model 3, 1 yr ago flying through tesla giga berlin. tim’s playbook has been ‘world peace through world trade’, and an offshoring of apple’s supply chain during the tail end of the industrials age. as we transition to the next era, i imagine apple will continue to vertically integrate & on shore some of their hardware manufacturing to de-risk their supply chain from global conflict.
ai announcements later this year1: in my opinion, apple has done well delivering against their stated principles about designing everything they make around privacy, security, and for the ability of customers to have control over their tools. making the best consumer hardware devices at a global scale requires meticulous planning, their roadmap spans decades and requires incomprehensible coordination to deliver against. their playbook makes sense, no need to rush into new categories. they are methodical and take their time, and design & build against a long term roadmap.
they’ve clearly been designing their supply chain and hardware lineups to run big models locally on your hardware. because it’s the base layer for an apple customer’s data, and have earned that right after the iphone launch to now, they’ll be able to deliver use cases for llms and generative ai that others simply will not be able to. i’m trying to be optimistic that despite apples sins, i do believe in what they’re designing and building for customers. i hope the work they’re releasing in the coming years will prove that to be true. that they are giving customers the path to further decentralization by running their ai models locally, with data that can be stored locally, of which these models will hopefully be open source like llama 3 (is siri going to be the biggest open source project in the history of humankind?). as customers continue to adopt ai, ideally it will be in a way that gives them more control over their data, and allows them to depend less on individual corporations. this is counter intuitive, that the largest company in the world would be capable of building products that enable decentralization and individual control. while i believe this to be true, i naively hope for a future where individuals generally have more control over the technologies they use, regardless of who is in charge of (enter name here) corporation. there are signs of progress.
are these new ai products, vision, and spatial computing going to enrich our lives and help us a life that we are exited about? i believe we often shift to much blame tools and toolmakers for some of the negative externalities associated with consumer technologies. at the end of the day, we can do our part by trying to be intentional about how we leverage them. i’ll judge the tools i choose to use by their utility and their ability to enrich my life, and i owe it to myself to take my use of the tools seriously, and be thoughtful how i leverage them to achieve the life i’d like to live each day. i’m excited to document my experience using and building for vision pro in the months to come.
this was a pretty good article that including the first photo of tim wearing the goggles, and told some interesting stories about the years that led up to this moment.