Apple Inc. is intensifying the production of its groundbreaking mixed-reality headset, Vision Pro, with an expected launch in February, insiders report. Overseas manufacturing, currently in full swing in Chinese facilities, is striving to ensure customer-ready units by the end of January, preceding a retail debut the subsequent month.
In a recent email to software developers, Apple signaled the impending release, urging them to prepare for Vision Pro compatibility by testing apps with the latest tools and submitting software for feedback—an additional indicator of an approaching launch.
The rollout represents Apple’s most intricate product launch, necessitating novel sales strategies and specialized equipment. The headset’s bespoke components require on-site assembly and packaging at the point of sale. Fitting the Vision Pro correctly to a user’s head is crucial; improper adjustments could compromise content display and result in discomfort due to added weight.
Marking Apple’s first foray into a new product category since the introduction of smartwatches in 2015, the Vision Pro introduces consumers to mixed reality, blending virtual and augmented reality. Despite Meta Platforms Inc. leading the market, mixed-reality headsets have faced challenges gaining mainstream acceptance.
Apple prioritizes making a stellar first impression, including refurbishing retail stores to accommodate Vision Pro inventory and fixtures for the $3,500 device. In addition to stocking headsets, stores will offer accessories like head straps, light seals, and prescription lenses.
The Vision Pro’s various sizes and configurations necessitate increased storage space, prompting the need for new demonstration areas and spaces for employees to package headsets with correctly sized accessories.
Possible last-minute production hiccups could impact the timeline, but Apple has not officially commented on potential delays. To expedite store readiness, Apple is sending two staffers from each retail outlet to its headquarters for training sessions beginning in January. These employees will manage sales of the device and instruct peers in marketing.
During training in Cupertino, retail employees will learn the Vision Pro’s functionality and which features to highlight in conversations with potential buyers. They’ll master attaching the headband, optional prescription lenses, and the light seal, crucial for blocking external light.
While the Vision Pro is expected to be a US-exclusive product initially, its hefty price, two-hour battery life, and reported discomfort during testing pose challenges. Apple envisions the Vision Pro as the precursor to a line of successful mixed-reality products, with plans for more comfortable and lower-cost models in development.
Beyond consumer sales, Apple targets corporate customers and schools, although success in these markets is uncertain. The Vision Pro, akin to the Apple Watch’s impact on wristwatches, aims to encourage consumers to reconsider mixed reality.
Apple is actively developing the next version of the device’s operating system, visionOS, scheduled for release in 2024, along with operating systems tied to other major Apple devices.
In a note to developers, Apple expressed anticipation for the future, teasing, “There’s so much more to come, and we can’t wait to see what the next year brings.”