One of the most striking things about the Apple Vision Pro announcement is the price: $3499. This is even higher than the rumoured $3000, a whopping seven times the projected price of the Meta Quest 3, and has been cited as a reason that the Vision Pro will fail. While there are several reasons that might lead to it not taking off, I don’t think this is one of them.
That’s not to say that the price isn’t astronomically high, and out of reach of the vast majority of people. It is. However, as Steve Balmer famously pointed out at the time1, so was the iPhone’s launch price. That product went on to do reasonably well. The swingingly expensive initial version seeded the market, and acted as a beachhead for the far more reasonably priced iPhone 3G to achieve more widespread success a year later.
The main challenge that the Vision has with following that trajectory is bringing the price down; while the hardware in the first iPhone was pretty impressive for the time, that in the Vision is even more complex, along more axes. Moreover, even if they managed to halve the price, it’s still over $1500 — closer to a MacBook Pro than an iPhone. Given what’s inside, that’s not that surprising, but it will still limit the market.
This perhaps explains Apple’s emphasis on productivity (i.e., Mac-like) users, but that’s also a potential problem. While the iPhone essentially additive, the Vision Pro is looking to replace existing devices — the Mac for work, and the iPad for consumption. Until the platform is established enough that people will buy one instead of replacing their Mac or iPad, that’s going to mean a slow burn.
This, rather than the price per se, seems to me to be the biggest risk for the success of Apple Vision as a platform. The longer it takes to be established, the more chance for another player (maybe Meta, maybe someone else, maybe even an open platform) to come in and define the market. If that happens, Apple Vision would be relegated to a niche. Apple will no doubt do everything they can to ensure that doesn’t happen, but I expect there’ll be quite a few who will be pushing to ensure that it does.
While I’m not a massive fan of Balmer’s in general, I give him a pass on his “most expensive phone in history speech”. He had a job to do (boosting Windows Mobile OEMs in the face of this new threat), and he did it with gusto. Microsoft’s subsequent actions show that they had at least some understanding of the changes the iPhone brought, even if they were ultimately unsuccessful. The ones who dropped the ball were Palm/Treo (“PC guys won’t just walk in”) and RIM (who apparently thought the demo was fake.) [back]