If Apple’s headset tanks, it will be entirely Tim Cook’s fault

Allegedly (too) concerned about his legacy, the CEO is said to have ordered an Apple headset launch this year against recommendations from the product team.

Closeup of a generic augmented reality headset showcasing lens
Tim Cook is fed up with Apple headset delays | Image: James Yarema/Unsplash
  • What’s happening? Apple’s boss allegedly ordered that the company’s mixed-reality handset be released in 2023 despite warnings from the design team.
  • Why care? Apple’s first AR/VR headset is rumored to cost about $3000 or more. At that price, the company cannot afford the product to fail.
  • What to do? Go read the full Financial Times report.

Apple headset doesn’t seem ready for prime time

Apple has been building a mixed-reality headset for seven years now. The project has evolved from a tethered iPhone accessory to a standalone device that reportedly features cutting-edge hardware, like a Mac-class Apple chip, dual micro-OLED displays for 8K pictures, advanced head and eye tracking, and so on.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman recently said that some features of the company’s Reality Pro headset, like air typing, won’t be ready for prime time, but Apple will perfect them over time. And now, the Financial Times writes that Cook has ordered a headset launch this year despite warnings from the design team that the product isn’t ready for mass adoption. Read: 45+ tips to save battery life on iPhone

The stakes are high for Cook. The headset will be Apple’s first new computing platform to have been developed entirely under his leadership. The iPhone, iPad and even Watch were all originally conceived under Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011.

Apple has been delaying the launch each year for several years.

The stakes are high for Tim Cook, indeed

Rival Meta has been perfecting its Oculus hardware and releasing new headsets; others are waiting to join the fray. While Apple could afford to wait a few more years until the market for these things has evolved to disrupt it with a leapfrog product, the article claims that’s not why Cook is in a hurry to release the headset.

“The Apple chief will also be guaranteeing his legacy includes the launch of a next-generation hardware product that some inside the company believe might one day rival the iPhone,” reads the article. “One day” is doing a lot of work in this sentence. One thing is certain: people don’t seem to be dying to ditch their slabs of aluminum and glass to isolate themselves in bulky headsets.

In deciding to press ahead with a debut this year, Cook has sided with operations chief Jeff Williams, according to two people familiar with Apple’s decision-making, and overruled the early objections from Apple’s designers to wait for the tech to catch up with their vision.

Interestingly, no one could touch industrial designers in the Steve Jobs era. But since Jony Ive’s departure, Design now reports to Operations.

But this is Tim Cook’s Apple, and we have to accept the reality that a CEO who doesn’t nurture a hands-on approach to product development and lacks Jobs’ credibility as a product editor still has the power to overrule Design.

A marketing blitz is in the works

This excerpt is interesting:

A former Apple engineer said operations taking more control over product development is a “logical progression” of Apple’s trajectory under Cook. The best part of working at Apple, this person said, used to be coming up with engineering solutions to the “insane requirements” from the design team, but that has changed in recent years.

Sources speaking to the Financial Times claim Apple’s internal projection in terms of sales is one million headsets in the first twelve months. If the device tanks due to high price or because it’s too work-in-progress, it will be entirely Tim Cook’s fault, and his reputation as a visionary leader will not be guaranteed.

Perhaps this is precisely why Apple is “preparing a marketing blitz” for the headset.