Apple is expected to launch its mixed reality headset, a device capable of both augmented and virtual reality, sometime this year. While it is likely to be unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, there has been internal disagreement within the company about when to ship the device.
Apple’s Foray into Mixed Reality Headset Launch: Balancing Innovation and Design in a Divided Company
According to a report from the Financial Times, the operations team, led by Jeff Williams, has been pushing to ship the headset as soon as possible, even if it means that the device is bulky and expensive. On the other hand, members of the design team want to wait until a more lightweight AR glasses product is feasible. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook has sided with the operations team, as he believes that the current state of the market warrants entry into the fray, even if the first-generation headset will be expensive and have limited appeal to consumers.
The first-generation headset is expected to be priced around $3,000 and includes dual 4K OLED displays and advanced eye-and-hand-tracking sensors. However, it is also believed to be relatively bulky with short battery life, lasting only about two hours per session. Apple expects to sell about one million units in the first year.
The Financial Times report characterizes the divide within Apple as an operation versus design group split. Under Steve Jobs’ leadership, the design team was the driving force behind all decisions, with operations serving the design team’s wishes. However, this has shifted under Cook, with operations gaining more power and visibility within the executive ranks. Notably, significant design team leadership, including Jony Ive and his replacement Evans Hankey, have left the company in recent years.
Despite the disagreement within the company, the launch of the mixed reality headset is seen as a critical move for Apple. The device represents the second major new product launch of Cook’s tenure as CEO, following the release of the Apple Watch in 2015. Cook has indicated that he plans to retire within the next decade, which means that the headset could be the last major product launch of his run as CEO.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has ultimately backed the operations team’s decision to ship the device now. It remains to be seen whether the first-generation headset will be a hit with consumers. Still, Apple is already working on a second-generation device that is expected to be more affordable.