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Report: Apple Executives Cautious of Mixed-Reality Headset Amid Compromises

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Apple executives including CEO Tim Cook and senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi have kept their distance from the company’s mixed-reality headset throughout its development process, according to Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman.

Apple apparently began developing the headset in 2015, using Samsung’s Gear VR and the HTC Vive in early experiments. The headset has reportedly deviated significantly from ‌Tim Cook‌’s original vision. The product was initially imagined as “a pair of unobtrusive eyeglasses that could be worn all day,” but it has now become a full-blown headset that looks like a pair of ski goggles and requires a separate battery pack due to technological limitations, internal disagreements, and a rush to bring an AR/VR product to market.

Despite Cook’s strong view that the device should focus on unobtrusive augmented reality, he was reportedly not deeply engaged in its design and chose to only participate in demonstrations. Cook’s “relative noninvolvement” has sometimes been seen as indecision and caused frustration, leading to delays and concerns about obtaining resources.

Key figures including Craig Federighi have also kept their distance from the headset during its development and have seemed wary of the device. Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president for hardware technologies, is believed to privately be a skeptic of the device, likening it to a science project. He has warned that designing the high-performance chips the headset requires could distract from new iPhone chips that drive more revenue.

Some of the headset’s features, including the ability to function as an external monitor for a Mac and multi-person video calls, are apparently less advanced than Apple originally intended.

Apple reportedly hopes that the users will eventually wear the device continuously all day, replacing tasks currently accomplished on other devices such as the ‌iPhone‌ and Mac, including web browsing, gaming, email, video calls and collaboration, working out, and meditation, but does not expect this to happen immediately. Internal projections estimate that the product has the potential to eventually be as big as the Apple Watch or iPad following the addition of new features and lower price point with new versions of the device.

While Apple initially hoped to sell three million units within the device’s first year on sale, it now expects to sell around 900,000 units. The company has decided to sell the device at its approximate cost to make, rather than sell it at a loss as it originally considered.

More to follow…

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