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The Business Engineer

Is Apple wrong about AR?

Published 28 days ago • 5 min read

In 2018, I wrote a piece about Apple's business strategy for the coming years, which I think is even more relevant today. At the end of it, I guessed whether AR would be Apple's next platform.

Honestly, I have to say, I've been biased on that, as for years, I've been waiting for a business tool, like AR glasses, that could free me from my computer and enable me to manage my business anywhere in the world, on the fly!

The interesting part is that after years of waiting, the moment might be coming...

Tim Cook was wrong about AR, and he understood it now!

It seems that for years, Tim Cook believed AR would have been a flop.

As explained in the GQ profile, years ago, when asked about the possibility of Apple manufacturing glasses in the mold of Google Glass, an early AR product, Cook told The New Yorker’s Ian Parker that he was skeptical of the enterprise.

That was his take on AR back then:

“We always thought that glasses were not a smart move, from a point of view that people would not really want to wear them. They were intrusive, instead of pushing technology to the background, as we’ve always believed.”

He said then:

“We always thought it would flop, and, you know, so far it has.”

But then he also acknowledged:

“My thinking always evolves. Steve taught me well: never to get married to your convictions of yesterday. To always, if presented with something new that says you were wrong, admit it and go forward instead of continuing to hunker down and say why you’re right.”

Yet, after seeing the various attempts from Google and Meta, which, while massive failures, also managed to create a first niche market for AR/VR devices, Cook reasoned:

“Pretty much everything we’ve ever done, there were loads of skeptics with it,”

Cook says.

“If you do something that’s on the edge, it will always have skeptics.”

Cook says when Apple decides to enter a market, he asks himself the following questions:

“Can we make a significant contribution, in some kind of way, something that other people are not doing? Can we own the primary technology? I’m not interested in putting together pieces of somebody else’s stuff. Because we want to control the primary technology. Because we know that’s how you innovate.”

Well, that's the right moment, I argue.

Indeed, in an AR/VR market that has been disappointing for years, most people are skeptical about its potential, and that is the moment where, if you're Apple, you want to prove everyone wrong by releasing a game-changer device!

Is AR finally becoming viable after years?

With the official launch of Apple's Vision Pro, it becomes clear that it might become the next productivity platform, with the potential of a consumer device!

Now, while I like the concept, I still think this might be quite limiting, as it still projects (linearly) the current tech (PC productivity) into AR.

While I'd love to have a setup like that, I also acknowledge that the major leaps when new technologies come in are not about linearly applying formats that worked for previous technological waves to new ones.

But rather to find whole new formats.

So, what's the format that will make AR the new business platform?

Generative AI and AR are the real things!

In a cool Tweet, Mckay Wrigley showcased the prototype of a generative AI assistant, which leverages the vision from the iPhone to classify objects and enable interaction with this information on the fly.

In the specific example, you can see how, in the video, he uses the iPhone's camera to have the AI classify all the food he has in the fridge, which is in line with a Keto diet, and from there, have the AI look for recipes that can be done with these ingredients!

Now, imagine a world where we have AR Glasses on, and we can have them scan our food, look for the recipes, and perhaps a Robot Chef in our kitchen that can make them on the fly!

This is the kind of technological revolution AR and generative AI are leading us toward.

How long will it take? It's hard to say.

We'll figure out what the major obstacles are as we go, but will we get there? I believe so!

So, once again, we've been waiting for AR/VR to become viable for years.

And yet, after the major failure of Google Glasses in 2013, the central failure of Meta in launching a viable VR device at scale (Reality Labs, the business unit of Meta, which deals with VR, has burned over $13 billion in 2022 alone) the market seemed stuck.

However, Generative AI might make AR/VR viable again in a single stroke. And in a disenchanted market that expects AR to flop, once again, what if Apple can pull this off?

And by the way, not only that.

Suppose I were OpenAI right now, as a natural step to complete the puzzle and create a solid business ecosystem. In that case, I’d be working on an AR device to integrate all the generative AI tech at scale smoothly (and it seems they are working on it with the legendary iPhone designer, John Ive)!

I hope this insight might be useful for you to gain a bit of perspective on what might be coming next...

Recap, In This Issue!

  • In 2018, my curiosity was piqued by the potential of AR to become Apple's next big leap, driven by my fascination with how technology could transform business management.
  • Tim Cook's initial skepticism towards AR, rooted in concerns over their appeal and the intrusiveness of wearing glasses, captured my attention. His honesty about consumer reluctance provided a grounded perspective.
  • Cook's ability to evolve his thinking, admitting past misjudgments and recognizing the emerging niche markets carved out by Google and Meta, despite their setbacks, was particularly inspiring. This adaptability in leadership resonated with me.
  • Apple's strategy of entering markets only where they can control primary technology and make a significant impact mirrors my own beliefs in innovation. The launch of Apple's Vision Pro underscored this, hinting at AR's potential as a groundbreaking productivity tool.
  • However, I'm intrigued by the notion that this first step might be too linear, merely extending existing tech into the AR realm. It sparks a debate on what true innovation should look like.
  • The synergy between Generative AI and AR excites me the most. Witnessing a prototype that seamlessly integrates real-world interactions, such as dietary planning, showcases the transformative power of combining these technologies.
  • Reflecting on the historical hurdles faced by AR/VR, including the notable flops of Google Glass and Meta's VR endeavors, I'm optimistic. The advent of generative AI presents a thrilling opportunity to redefine this space.
  • The prospect of OpenAI, in collaboration with legendary designer John Ive, working to fuse generative AI with AR, hints at a burgeoning technological revolution. This potential to create a comprehensive business ecosystem is what I believe could mark the dawn of a new era in tech.

Ciao!

With ♥️ Gennaro, FourWeekMBA


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The Business Engineer

The Only Official Newsletter of FourWeekMBA - By Gennaro Cuofano

At the intersection of business model strategy, technology, and business development, The Business Engineer is the only official newsletter of FourWeekMBA.com, the leading blog about business model strategy and business engineering. The blog reaches millions of business people each year.

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