Apple’s mixed reality headset, expected to launch later this year after numerous delays, would arrive significantly later if the company’s designers had their way. According to a new report, the Cupertino design team warned Tim Cook that the headset project was not ready for a 2023 launch, but was ignored.
The Financial Times, citing two anonymous sources “familiar with Apple’s decision making,” reports that conflicting ideas about how and when to launch the company’s first AR/VR product led to a schism at Apple: the operations team wanted to ship as soon as possible, but the design team preferred to wait and launched a lighter and sleeker version a few years later. Tim Cook, according to the FT, sided with operations “ignoring early objections from Apple’s designers to wait for technology to catch up with their vision.”
This resolution, the FT argues, reflects the diminished political power invested in the design team since Sir Jony Ive’s heyday, when he oversaw both hardware and software efforts and reported directly to the CEO. In such circumstances, “it would have been unthinkable to go against the wishes of Apple’s almighty design team.” But power in the design division has since been diluted among multiple executives (one of whom also left and was not immediately replaced), and operations now appear to have more influence over the company’s direction, a move described by a former Apple executive. engineer cited by the FT as a “logical continuation” of Cook’s strategy.
The dispute over the launch of the headset is indicative of both the long-term importance of the product to Apple – it’s unlikely many units of the first edition will be sold, but it could eventually become as popular as the iPhone — and from the company and Tim Cook’s , frustration at the time it took to get to market. The headset is expected to launch in 2023, either at a special spring event, WWDC, or alongside the iPhone in the fall, the headset has faced endless delays and competitors are already working on similar products.
But perhaps most importantly for Cook, the headset is seen as a way of preserving his legacy as CEO. Following the launch of the Apple Watch and AirPods during his tenure, the AR headset is expected to take a new direction within Apple that looks beyond the iPhone and extends Cook’s influence for years to come. With talk of his retirement never far from pundits’ minds, it’s no wonder Apple’s immensely successful boss is keen to ensure it launches sooner than (even) later.
For all the latest news and rumors from this year’s major product launch, check out our regularly updated Apple headset super guide.