visionOS and peak Apple

Jason Snell makes the case for hand controllers and other changes to the Vision Pro:

I’ve got a Vision Pro and a Meta Quest 3. And yet the Quest 3, which costs about one-seventh of the price of the Vision Pro, is a vastly superior platform when it comes to playing certain kinds of games. Games just require precision positioning (through detailed movement tracking), and input (via on-controller buttons) that waving your hands and tapping fingers together in Vision Pro just can’t match.

Jason has good ideas for improving Vision Pro, but I think the problem is more fundamental than that. visionOS is a bust.

Most users don’t want to strap a computer to their face. Most developers don’t want to dedicate time to redesigning their apps. Some people love the Vision Pro, and that’s great for them, but it’s not a mainstream product.

I said on Core Intuition last year that it will be 20 years before technology catches up to Apple’s vision of spacial computing, with normal-looking AR glasses that can do most of what the Vision Pro can do. I think there will be compelling AR glasses before then, but they won’t run visionOS as we know it today.

As I blogged about when I said Apple needs a flop:

Maybe we’re at a crossroads for the company. Apple was great as the underdog, when they were humbled, fighting to out-innovate the competition. What came after the Lisa? The Macintosh. After almost going bankrupt? Think Different and the iMac. After the butterfly keyboard? Some of the best MacBooks ever made.

Apple has lost something on the path to becoming a $3 trillion company. They’re not going to get it back, because it’s something that’s hard to define, something that slips through your fingers when you try to do too much. The larger a company gets, the less capable they are of reaching beyond obvious products. The iPod formula of “we’re not first, but we’re the best” is no longer working. Everyone else is innovating too.

I said this year that we’re at “peak Apple”, and I still believe it:

Apple has been an inspiration for me for 30 years. A massive success. I think this is as good as it gets for them. They are simply too big to fundamentally rethink anything for what’s next.

There may never be another company like Apple. Still, I hope there’s room somewhere under the boots of the mobile duopoly for a new upstart. A product that is built natively for the open web, with a new take on how devices can be part of our lives, untethered from Apple and Google. If I squint a little I can almost see it happening.

Manton Reece @manton