7 Things (Which Are My Last-Minute WWDC23 Predictions) This Week [#97]
A weekly list of interesting things I found on the internet, posted on Sundays. Sometimes themed, often not.
I’ve already published a wish list of bug fixes and product improvements I’d like to see Apple make this year starting at WWDC, which I think of as Day 1 of the Apple year. But what follows are the things that I predict we actually will see in the keynote tomorrow.
Organized from what I think is most likely to least likely.
1️⃣ A preview of the AR headset is shown off, and attendees get to try them on. I expect the headset to steer Apple for the next decade, at least. They’ve got a lot riding on it and will need developers on board. The try-on logistics will be pretty wild (prescriptions, cleaning the units, the space needed, etc.), but I think this introduction needs some hands-on time.
2️⃣ iPad apps on the headset that take advantage of Stage Manager and the Apple Pencil hover support introduced last year. Full credit to Federico Viticci and John Voorhees nailed this on their xrOS wish list episode of AppStories. I wasn’t so sure about the hover feature before, but it makes perfect sense as an interaction layer for the hand-tracking-focused headset. And Stage Manager seems specially made for organizing unaltered 2D iPad apps in a 3D environment.
3️⃣ While many AI-like features are announced, none are labeled as powered by “AI”; they’ll be powered by “Machine Learning (ML)”, instead. Despite their recent job posting, “Artificial Intelligence” doesn’t seem like it will make the cut into Apple’s vernacular when speaking to the public. It comes with too much baggage and isn’t accurate to the actual technology. They’ll be missing out on the AI hype, but I don’t think they’ll care. (I also don’t think the “metaverse” will be mentioned at all.)
4️⃣ The headset is called the Reality Pro and its operating system is called realityOS. Coming out with the Reality “Pro” suggests that there will be a more affordable option coming later, which I think will be important given how fancy and expensive this first one sounds likely to be. I know we’ve seen a bunch of hints that “xrOS” will be the name of the software, but that sounds so clunky and means nothing to someone who doesn’t know that “XR” stands for “mixed reality”. realityOS sounds cooler, incorporates the name of the product it powers, and better follows their recent naming conventions. xrOS → Mixed Reality Operating System? Bleh. (But this is the company that has dolled out M1 Max Macs and iPhone 14 Pro Max as product names, so 🤷♂️)
5️⃣ The headset pricing is announced and starts at $2499 or less. I’m on the bandwagon that thinks (and hopes) that the rumored $3000 starting price has been seeded by Apple so that they can waltz in and severely undercut it. Granted, $2499 is hardly “affordable” compared to the $499 Meta Quest. But Apple’s never been afraid to come in at a premium price point and then have the technology trickle down to more affordable options over time.
6️⃣ All the OSes feature a refreshed design language with more texture and shadows that nods toward the 3D environment for the realityOS UI. I think we got a little tease with this year’s accessibility announcements that showed more prominent and shadowed buttons. And since the headset will need a brand-new 3D UI paradigm, a refresh across the board will keep Apple’s overall software design language in step.
7️⃣ New AirPods Max are announced that pair with the headset for an even more immersive setting. This is my risky pick since there haven’t been any rumors about new AirPods Max coming. But I think AirPods Max will pair perfectly with the headset for media and other environments that you want to get lost in. And since it’s been four years(!) since they were introduced, AirPods Max are due for a redo. I’d like to see them designed to be lighter-weight, in different colors, and more portable. And they need to introduce something that’s capable of playing the lossless audio that Apple Music now streams. Maybe using Ultra Wideband?
Stay tuned for when I grade the results after the keynote.