Tim Cook ‘Pushed Forward’ Apple VR Headset Launch

Apple chief executive Tim Cook at WWDC 2020. Image credit: Apple

Tim Cook reportedly pushed for launch of Apple mixed-reality headset this year over arguments of design team that technology was not ready

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has reportedly pushed for the launch of the company’s expected “mixed-reality” headset around the middle of this year, siding with Apple’s operations team over the objections of its industrial design unit, which argued the technology was not yet mature enough.

The timing of the launch has been a source of tension since the project began in early 2016, according to a Financial Times report citing unnamed sources, with the operations team pushing to launch a “version one” product while the industrial design team pushed for a delay until the headset could be made more lightweight.

Industry watchers widely expect the headset launch to finally go ahead in early 2023 after seven years of development, twice as long as the iPhone.

That the launch is going ahead is partly a reflection of the growing influence of the operations team, following the departure of longtime design chief Jony Ive in 2019, the FT said.

Sony's PlayStation VR. Image credit: Sony apple headset
Sony’s PlayStation VR headset. Image credit: Sony

Operations focus

The design team now reports to operations chief Jeff Williams, and Cook reportedly sided with Williams in pushing for the launch to go ahead this year.

Apple reportedly expects to sell only about a million units of the headset in its first year, with the product expected to sell for about $3,000 (£2,492), three times that of Meta’s Quest Pro.

But even that low figure would be about 10 percent of the VR headset market, which shipped about 10 million units last year, according to CCS Insight.

The launch would be primarily intended to spur interest amongst Apple early adopters and developers, leading to the development of apps.

Image credit: Oculus/Meta/Facebook apple headset
Image credit: Oculus/Meta/Facebook

Slow start

Those apps could make the device more appealing and fuel further sales, in a process similar to the iPhone’s rapid growth.

In spite of the modest sales target Apple is preparing a massive marketing campaign for the product, the FT said.

Bloomberg reported in January that Apple was still planning to push ahead with the launch this year of its mixed-reality headset, but has delayed that of its rumoured lightweight augmented reality glasses, due to technical challenges.