A year ago, the tech industry was talking about the possibility of Apple finally unveils his long-awaited AR/VR headset, which will become his first big news since the release in 2015 of the Apple Wtch.
Apple’s mixed reality headsetmany thought, would give us a clear sign of the future. Apple has a history of setting industry trends, starting with ditching the floppy drive in his first iMac in 1998 all the way to SOS satellite integrated into the iPhone 14, which other phone makers are apparently also working on. Apple is well known for introducing niche products to the mainstream, such as smartphones and tablets.
But Apple didn’t introduce headphones this year. He didn’t even mention much about the AR technology supposed to power it that would overlay computer information onto the real world.
Instead, contestants who tried to come out ahead of him met with mixed success. Meta co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the $1,500 Meta Quest Proa headset designed for office work that offers both AR and virtual reality, enveloping you in a computer-generated world.
Meta’s helmet has been received mixed reviews after its launch in Octoberwith reviewers complaining in particular about the high price, two-hour battery life, and lack of apps that actually take advantage of its new features.
“Quest Pro feels like a half step,” CNET’s Scott Stein wrote after trying out the device, marking an inauspicious end to Facebook’s first year under its new VR-inspired name, Meta.
The no-show of the Apple headset and the eventful launch of the Meta Quest Pro played into a complicated year for the tech industry always hungry for the next big thing. Over the past 12 months, tech companies have faced a seemingly endless barrage of challenges, from COVID-19 lockdowns that have slowed manufacturing in China, to Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, which led to sky-high energy prices, inflation and now concerns of a recession next year.
“There were a lot of things the tech industry had to deal with that weren’t planned,” said Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Creative Strategies. As a result, tech companies, including Apple, delivered no surprises as they focused on incrementally improving products.
Apple’s biggest product changes this year have focused on adding new features such as collision detection capabilities for peace of mind with the $799 iPhone 14one more rugged version of his Apple Watch and better noise cancellation in AirPods.
Other companies have made similar, more realistic progress. Google introduced its Pixel 7, a “slightly better phone“than last year’s model,” wrote CNET’s Lisa Eadiccio in her review. change the name of your Office productivity software to Microsoft 365. And Amazon’s wildly popular $50 Echo Dot speaker has been refined with better bass and soundin addition to extending certain Wi-Fi signals.
While many of these improvements have been well received, industry watchers say they haven’t moved the needle much on major futuristic trends.
“I would almost say it’s a lost year in terms of progress,” said Anshel Sag, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. Product delays will likely remain “a way of life,” he said, “until things get back to normal. Anyway.”
Apple’s lack of a mixed reality entry meant other new entries got little buzz.
And that was not all. Zuckeberg’s effort last year to rename facebook to meta, short for metaverse, fizzled out. While Zuckerberg said he meant it as a sign of the company’s commitment to future technology, investors have increasingly questioned the wisdom of the $10 billion he’s pumped into the project so far. Meta’s stock has fallen almost 70% this year.
Microsoft, meanwhile, lost its leader for its HoloLens headset team this summer amid misconduct allegations. And Sony said it was very PlayStation VR 2 device planned will cost $550 when it launches next year, at least $50 more than the cost of his PlayStation 5.
So it’s probably no surprise that half of teens responding to a survey by analyst firm Piper Sandler said they weren’t sure or had no intention of buying headphones. Only 9% were interested enough to buy one.
Further economic instability predicted for 2023 could mean that Apple and its competitors will likely delay planned new products even further, which analysts say is to be expected.
But the ripple effects will also affect other companies, including many startups David Barnard speaks to as a developer advocate for payments company RevenueCat.
“Innovation tends to come from small companies,” he said, noting that even Apple’s renowned chip design team dates back to startup PA Semi, which the iPhone maker bought in 2008 for $278 million. “If Apple wasn’t able to create its own custom chips, would it be able to create a headset now? Probably not.”
As for 2023, he’ll be watching to see where developers are putting their energy. After all, he noted, what separates an iPad from tablets powered by Google’s Android software are the apps. The same, he said, helps the Apple Watch stand out from its competitors.
“Don’t overlook the importance of developers,” he said.
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