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Apple’s $3,499 Vision Pro Headset Will Test Marketing Might

Apple’s $3,499 Vision Pro Headset Will Test Marketing Might

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. will charge an eye-popping $3,499 for its long-awaited mixed-reality headset, testing whether consumers are ready to spend big bucks on a technology that the company sees as the future of computing.

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The iPhone maker unveiled the new Vision Pro headset at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, the culmination of more than seven years of development. Introduced with Steve Jobs’ trademark phrase — “one more thing” — the product vaults Apple into the first major new category since it began selling smartwatches in 2015. The Vision Pro also could be one of the riskiest launches in the company’s history.

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In a wide-ranging presentation, Apple demonstrated the headset’s myriad features and spotlighted content planned for the product, including games and interactive video from Walt Disney Co. The device, which resembles high-tech ski goggles, will have its own operating system, visionOS, and a dedicated App Store. It’s slated to arrive early next year in the US, followed by other regions later.

The Vision Pro is the latest of what Apple hopes is a groundbreaking new product that can help the tech titan keep sales growing. It will attempt to redefine a still-nascent industry in the same vein as the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. The difference this time is Apple is launching with a lofty price — and jumping into a market that hasn’t resonated with consumers.

More broadly, it aims to change how people interact with the world. Apple has long been seeking a new platform to take it beyond the iPhone and iPad, and this could be that path. The wearable device mixes virtual and augmented reality, meaning it can fully engross a user in content with high-resolution displays — ideal for video watching — or overlay apps on top of the wearer’s field of view, letting messages and notifications pop up without overwhelming the person.

“It’s the first Apple product you look through and not at,” Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said during the presentation.

Read More: Apple Headset Looks Sleek in Person But Battery Pack Stands Out

So far, investors are skeptical. The shares had climbed near record levels on Monday but slipped back down after the Vision Pro was announced. By the close in New York, they were down 0.8% at $179.58.

Apple’s marketing prowess is unmatched, and it has convinced consumers to spend more and more on their smartphones, but this product may be one of its biggest challenges. Rival headsets cost as little as a few hundred dollars. A $3,499 price would put the headset more in the realm of a high-end laptop than a gadget.

The company describes the new interface as “spatial computing.” A feature called EyeSight shows an image of your eyes on the outside of headset when people are nearby. The product also will show those people in your field of vision while you’re wearing the device, an attempt to keep users more engaged with the outside world.

A so-called digital crown — a term taken from the Apple Watch — switches the headset between augmented and virtual reality. Apple said it studied thousands of people’s heads to ensure the product would be comfortable and filed more than 5,000 patents. The headset has two main chips. There’s an M2 processor from the Mac that handles main computing tasks and a second chip, the R1, that works with the dedicated sensors that enable the mixed-reality capabilities.

Apple’s launch sets up a showdown with Meta Platforms Inc., which currently owns 81% of the VR headset market, according to Counterpoint Research. Apple expects to sell about 900,000 units of the Vision Pro in its first year, and — given its price tag — that could give the company a commanding share of the market. Still, those numbers would be a fraction of what its other devices generate.

Disney CEO Bob Iger also joined the presentation, saying that the Disney+ streaming service would be available for the device on the day it launches. Disney shares climbed less than 1% to $91.

“We believe Apple Vision Pro is a revolutionary platform that can make our vision a reality,” Iger said.

Other content providers — such as Netflix Inc. and app makers like Zoom Video Communications Inc. — also will be able to create their own apps for the device.

Out of the box, the headset will run many of the millions of iPhone and iPad apps without additional work from their creators. And Apple announced a software development kit that lets third parties create their own software for the Vision Pro.

Apple also cited Unity Software Inc. as a company it’s working with on the headset, sending Unity’s shares up 17% on Monday.

From a technology standpoint, the Vision Pro is one of the most advanced consumer gadgets ever. The headset has a dozen cameras, dual 4K microLED displays, and the ability to take 3D photos and videos. It uses an external battery pack with two hours of life, or it can be plugged into a wall for all-day use.

The headset’s debut served as the finale for a day of software and hardware announcements at WWDC, with Apple introducing new Macs and software for its major devices. But it was clear that Cook hoped to leave consumers with the Vision Pro on their minds — and that it would set the stage for something more.

Apple is already working on a lower-cost version of the headset, Bloomberg has reported, as well as an even more upscale model.

“This is just the beginning,” he said.

(Updates with details on the rollout in third paragraph.)

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