Apple has a knack for keeping us on our toes and changing the face of consumer technology. We’ve seen it time and time again, from the iPod to the Apple Watch, and now, we’re on the cusp of a new era with visionOS and Vision Pro. But what can businesses really expect from this cutting-edge technology, and is it worth the investment? In this article, we’ll explore the key insights and considerations for businesses looking to explore the possibilities of working with Vision Pro.
Historical insights on Apple platforms
Invariably with Apple’s historical releases (outside of iPhone), there has been a pattern – a cautious and deliberate approach. Initially the market may appear niche and the devices themselves are often on the pricier side. Companies eagerly embraced the Apple Watch and Apple TV only to discover they were primarily used for health tracking and content consumption.
The rollout of visionOS and Vision Pro is set to begin in the US in February 2024 with Australia likely to follow later in the year. But without firm release dates, businesses face the challenge of timing their go-to-market strategies and aligning product releases across channels such as phone and Vision Pro.
The First Mover advantage
Being a first mover on a new Apple platform can have its advantages but it’s not a guaranteed path to success. Just because a competitor is releasing an app on the platform doesn’t mean it will establish an insurmountable lead in the space. Remember, Domain.com.au had a mobile app in the market for more than a year before RealEstate.com.au released theirs and, over time, the initial advantage waned.
Apple’s promotion of third parties is historically modest. Still, early adopters of new technologies receive recognition through App Store editorials and (in rare cases) on-stage participation in Apple events. However, with visionOS’ initially limited market size, adopting the technology should primarily be viewed as a marketing opportunity to raise awareness of an existing offering as the return on investment may be modest.
Adapting existing apps
For businesses with existing native iOS and iPad apps, adapting to visionOS should be relatively straightforward. Most first party frameworks available on iPadOS and iOS are also included in visionOS, making many apps compatible with minimal modification. To ensure a better end-user experience however, companies with existing apps, assuming they’ve followed best practice, should be able make their existing apps work well on Vision Pro with only a moderate amount of effort.
We are often asked what technologies to use to build mobile apps and whether to use a cross-platform framework to save the cost of having to build two native apps for iOS and Android. If developing an app natively for iOS and Android devices is considered too much of an investment, then it’s also doubtful those companies will see the value of locking themselves into Apple’s ecosystem with visionOS.
The choice to use cross-platform frameworks like React Native or Flutter should be made with caution. It’s uncertain how well these frameworks will support visionOS. Apple is likely to lean into a platform-specific approach and many APIs and system features may only be accessible through native APIs. Our experience working with the beta visionOS SDK has show that existing apps that are based on frameworks such as SwiftUI find the transition to supporting visionOS much easier.
Compelling use cases needed
So far none of the use cases presented by Apple in their marketing content surrounding the Vision Pro presents a truly compelling or unique business use case for the Vision Pro. The existing marketing focuses mostly on content consumption (watching movies, reading the web) and communication (Facetime). Areas where Apple is already strong.
Likewise, Meta’s attempts at building compelling social spaces and communication apps for their Quest line of AR/VR products has failed to attract a large user base. By late 2022 Meta’s Horizon Worlds had less than 200,000 monthly active users and just 9 percent of the “worlds” in Horizon Worlds had been visited by 50 people or more. There is no evidence to suggest that Apple will be any more successful in this space.
We feel that the true potential of Vision Pro lies in specific use cases that add unique value, such as remote assistance, technical support, design and manufacturing, visualisation and prototyping, maintenance and repair, marketing and sales, and training.
The Future of Vision Pro
Apple has introduced a fantastic, generalised spatial computing device with Vision Pro but are leaving the creation of “killer” apps to third parties. The true potential of Vision Pro will only become apparent when more devices are in the hands of users and we can understand where they see value.
As a ‘Pro’ device, it’s currently expensive and filled to the brim with technology. However, we can anticipate new devices at different price points in the future considering Apple’s history of product differentiation.
While investing in visionOS might not offer immediate payback for businesses, in the longer term we see spatial computing environments becoming an increasingly important way for people to interact with technology. For businesses it may simply be important to demonstrate thought leadership and inspiration for what these platforms could become.