WWDC23: The Day After - Some Skepticism and Questions
Yesterday was full of excitement, even over here near the East Coast. I didn’t get to bed until nearly 2 AM and had bleary eyes and a head full of imaginations of a spatial computing-filled future. It felt like a momentous day — I loved digging in and feeling part of it.
BBut after a night’s sleep, I feel like I can think more holistically about the day’s announcements — particularly about our step into the era of spatial computing. I’m still bullish1 about Vision Pro and it cementing its role in our everyday computing in the not-too-distant future. But, there are bits about how Apple presented visionOS that give me some pause upon a second review.
We didn’t see a lot of in-depth work being done in visionOS. Sure, there was a version of Microsoft Word shown and we know that the Mac’s interface can be streamed into Vision Pro, but I don’t feel like we saw much of anyone creating anything within the apps. It was mostly moving around windows, consuming content, or scrolling through views. I know that it’ll be useful for much more than that, but I would have liked to see Apple show off a start-to-finish workflow demo. Or at least typing into the interface!
Previous new device categories have come been centered around their brand-new user interface paradigm — mouse for Mac, Click Wheel for iPod, Multi-touch for iPhone, and Digital Crown for Apple Watch — and Vision Pro uses the most advanced, yet natural interface yet in our hands and eyes. So I would have liked to see a “real” demonstration of someone using the device, and explaining in real-time the interaction options, such as how they manipulate items, pull up menus, and switch apps. The transition to pre-recorded videos for these product introductions has been a positive change, but it does leave room for a healthy amount of skepticism without the live demos of yore.
And I’ll reiterate how I think that Apple narrowly missed the mark they were aiming for in presenting Vision Pro as a device that doesn’t cut you off from the world. As I said yesterday:
However, it was a bit off-putting when Apple showed a parent wearing the Vision Pro to their child’s birthday party to capture spatial video. That scenario was a step too far, even if the technology is jaw-dropping.
I realized today just how many of the scenarios that Apple showed using Vision Pro were someone all by themselves in an expansive home or office. Sure, it’s a personal computing device, but I hope it’s not a lonely computing device. It’s a fine line, and while I think Apple is keenly aware of it, I’m a bit surprised we didn’t see an example of people using Vision Pro together.
I’ll say it again, I do think that visionOS is the future of computing. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not realistic about the challenges both we and Apple face along the road to get there.
Other Lingering Questions
Will we ever see a macOS mode on the Vision Pro? With a paired keyboard and mouse, or virtual ones, the user input problem is already solved.
Did we lose the Dock in watchOS with Control Center taking over the side button? What about watch faces that used scrolling (solar, pride, etc.), did those lose out too with the widget stack?
Will Safari on visionOS be capable of streaming from Xbox Game Pass? Could it be saved as a web app like Safari on macOS 14? And if not, how will the experience be to play through that expanded macOS desktop on Vision Pro?
Can we keep an empty desktop space full of widgets to recreate Dashboard in macOS 14?
I wonder how Vision Pro will be serviced. Probably like the Apple Watch or iPad, which have to be shipped out for nearly any repair.
2-hour battery life won’t get you through even a full movie these days. Will the battery pack be hot-swappable if you have two?
Does the Mac Pro provide good value at $3000 more than the Mac Studio for the same M2 Ultra chip specs? For that three grand, you get a massive (and, admittedly, beautiful) case, more I/O ports, the PCI slots for expansion cards, and…? Without an extendable graphics or memory story, I think the starting price — an increase from the outgoing Intel model — misses the mark.
Update: More questions on Wednesday, June 07
Does the Vision Pro come with any sort of cellular capability? Seeing as they didn’t mention it, I doubt it. But that limits where and when it can be used if you don’t want to further constrain battery life by tethering to a phone. Apple-designed cellular modems can’t come fast enough; at that point, they’ll have no excuse not to build cellular internet access into all their mobile devices.
What happens when you take the Vision Pro outside? Can it keep up with a wide open environment in bright sunlight?
What’s the multi-user story on visionOS? Most households won’t be able to afford one of them, let alone one per person!
Can you have multiple groups of shared passwords? I share almost everything with my wife, but only a subset of streaming service and other passwords with my parents using 1Password. We’re not all part of the same iCloud Family Sharing group, so I wonder if that’ll be possible.
I always second-guess myself on “bullish” vs. “bearish”. Bullish = optimistic, for those who also need a translation.↩︎