skip to Main Content
48 Hours With Vision Pro: Our Thesis on Spatial Computing
Apple, Spatial Computing
On the spectrum of the revolutionary products we've seen from Apple over the past 25 years, Vision Pro lands somewhere the middle. I'm increasingly convinced that the Vision product line will be bigger than Apple Watch (5% of Apple revenue), yet much smaller than iPhone (50%) — similar to iPad (10%), within the next decade.

Key Takeaways

Apple's Vision product segment will be smaller than iPhone (50%), similar to iPad (10%), within the next decade.
Despite cutting edge hardware, trade-offs will limit early adoption.
Even the magical new visionOS software paradigm will limit Vision Pro's utility.
The range of devices available to us is becoming saturated. Vision Pro has stiff competition.

Placing Vision Pro On the Spectrum of Revolutionary Apple Products

I was lucky to be in San Francisco at the Macworld keynote when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. He was reflective, almost sentimental:

This is the day I’ve been looking forward to for two and a half years. Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. One’s very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career. Apple has been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world.

At Deepwater, I have been similarly fortunate. Now, I can add Vision Pro to that list.

Many reviews have (rightly) pointed out that the first-generation Apple Vision Pro has certain first-generation limitations that Apple will undoubtedly resolve in future Vision products. And many of those same reviews have also (rightly) pointed out that new apps will be eventually be developed that offer new use cases and more utility. Then, they argue, we’ll know how useful this new category of devices will be.

But that’s a cop-out.

On day one, the iPhone was immediately useful and it was immediately obvious to me why I would buy one. I wanted desktop class internet in my pocket. I bought an iPhone on day one and have used one every day since.

The iPad has been different. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me how I would use an iPad instead of my Mac or my iPhone. I bought one and I use it from time to time, but I don’t use it daily. Given the lower utility, I upgrade my iPad less frequently.

On the spectrum of revolutionary Apple products over the past 25 years, Vision Pro lands somewhere the middle.

The iPhone (and other post-iPhone smartphones) is one of the highest utility tools humankind has ever created. It stands to reason that Apple, the creator of the category, is one of the largest companies in the world, and iPhone is its largest business (roughly 50% of revenue).

Based on a very limited scope of heavy usage and testing, I believe the Vision product segment will be bigger than Apple Watch (5% of Apple revenue) and smaller than iPhone (50%), similar to iPad (10%), within the next decade.


Hardware Trade-offs Will Limit Early Adoption

Another quote from Jobs: “Life often presents trade-offs.” The quote comes from Apple’s statement in April 2007 when the company delayed the release of Mac OS X Leopard to ensure the iPhone launch stayed on track. A smart trade-off in hindsight.

But the list of trade-offs with Vision Pro (a product already shipping) is long:

  • First, the price. Apple spared no expense packing tomorrow’s technology into today’s device, and that comes at a significant cost ($3,499). Vision Pro even sports an outward-facing display for non-users to gauge whether the user is in their own world or accessible — a feature (and trade-off) that falls spectacularly short.
  • Next, the weight. Because of the horsepower, displays, and sensors built into this head-worn computer, the weight of the device is significant and front-loaded. As a result, the band around your head needs to be tight and firm, applying enough pressure to stabilize the device — and cause general, subtle discomfort. And traveling with Vision Pro, which is a killer use case, is a commitment, taking up most of a single carry-on bag and weighing you down.
  • Next, the battery pack. To address the previous tradeoff Apple moved a lot of the device’s mass to an external battery pack, which introduces yet another tradeoff: the user is tethered to a battery pack. I found it easy to put the pack in my back left pocket, like a wallet, with the cord behind me. Notably, I’ve seen lots of “addicts” tether their phones in a very similar manner.
  • Next, prescription lenses. According to The Vision Council, 79% of U.S. adults use some form of vision correct. 63% use prescription glasses but only 18% use prescription contact lenses. Some, like me, use both. The trade-off here rears its head when you try to demo or share Vision Pro with someone else. The challenge of showing someone how magical the device can be is often cut short when the demo subject realizes a prescription lens requirement and/or doesn’t have their contacts available.
  • Speaking of vision issues. A few people who tried my Vision Pro were immediately nauseous from the blurry video passthrough, immersive experiences, or moving with Vision Pro on. I didn’t have any motion issues; I did, however, have some eye strain any time I used Vision Pro for 30+ minutes, presumably from the displays in the headset so close to my eyes.
  • Next, guest mode. Even using Apple’s bespoke guest mode requires calibration and some training before the magic beings. Contrast this with the ease of showing a friend your first iPhone, raving about your newfound ability to pinch and zoom and tap, and the hardware trade-offs are clear. Vision Pro is personal and personalized. It is difficult to share, even between multiple users in a home, and at $3,499 multiple Vision Pros is a non-starter.

Collectively, this list builds significant headwinds to early adoption of Vision Pro. Most of the list also represents longer-term trade-offs that will limit adoption, use-cases and utility for at least a few more versions of the hardware and maybe for the category indefinitely.


The Boundaries of visionOS Also Limit Its Utility

Nobody does hardware + software like Apple. Said otherwise, Vision Pro is yet another experience that only Apple can deliver.

Apple’s streak of revolutionary design interaction paradigms is unmatched:

  • Early Apple computers gave us the ability to point and click with a mouse in a graphical user interface.
  • The iPod brought the click wheel to naturally scroll through long lists of 1,000s of songs.
  • iPhone delivered multitouch — pinching, zooming, and tapping our way to any information anywhere.
  • Vision Pro introduces eye tracking and gesture recognition to manipulate our computing world.

In each case, complex computing fades behind a natural and responsive user interface. Vision Pro extends Apple’s streak; however, as a category, the boundaries of spatial computing are limiting.

Most apps are literally limited to a two-dimensional window pane of content, floating in three-dimensional space. Some experiences, like Encounter Dinosaurs, the Meditation app, and a few videos from Apple Immersive, are the rare exception and provide glimmers of what true spatial computing will one day be.

Entertainment can be jaw-dropping in Vision Pro; productivity, however, can be frustrating. Adding apps to your workspace feels like infinite computing. The trouble is that too many apps and windows must compete to be seen left-to-right or up-and-down in a narrow field of view. The user needs to physically move their head to see certain apps in space. Worse, sometimes apps get layered on the Z-axis and it’s not clear how to regain control of the “deeper” app window.

Regarding the nascent app ecosystem, a few takeaways:

  • My first app downloads were Fruit Ninja (to try a game), MLB (in hopes of watching immersive sports), Disney+ (for 3D movies), and Slack (to message my coworkers). None impressed me as much as the default apps from Apple, unsurprisingly.
  • FaceTime went well, but my Persona was met with some awkwardness. Here, Apple is shipping a “beta” product, which seems to be marketing speak for a product Apple knows is substandard but for which there is no better alternative.
  • A Fitness app is curiously missing. Yes, the device is heavy, but workouts are meant to build strength! And yes, workouts can be sweaty, but an alternative sweat-proof Light Seal Cushion should do the trick. I’d love to try an immersive Fitness+ class on a stationary bike.
  • Given this new set of sensors and hardware, what is newly possible? As an investor, I’m optimistic that Vision Pro will prove to be fertile ground for startups and tech incumbents alike to create value for users. What are the Ubers and Instagrams of Spatial Computing? Only time will tell.

For now, the app ecosystem is limited in terms of incremental utility. Take Zoom, for example; Zoom on Vision Pro gives users capabilities similar to those they have on other platforms, limited by a two-dimensional window pane. Zoom, like most other visionOS apps, is not yet an immersive, novel experience that delivers new value.

Let’s not forget that “app” is short for “application” and the incremental application of this technology is not yet clear to me. There are glimmers of the future; for example:

    • A cooking app with helpful information like timers and recipe instructions points to an augmented future that is more efficient.
    • Watching movies in an immersive environment points to a future that is more enjoyable.
    • Using a giant computer display (or several) in a 3D workspace points to a future where even more information is available to us as we work.

But for now, these are only glimmers of future possibilities. Conversely, iPhone delivered incremental utility on day one, so I proceed with measured optimism as I consider the pace and magnitude of spatial computing.


Vision Pro Has Stiff Competition

One anecdote from my first few days with Vision Pro sticks out: My daughter, home from a long day at a volleyball tournament, relaxing on the couch with her iPhone, probably scrolling TikTok, with the Vision Pro next to her on the shelf.

To be clear, she had tried Vision Pro, loved it, and wanted to use it again. But in that moment, her iPhone, TikTok and the convenience of it all was too overpowering for Vision Pro to compete.

Over the last few days, I used Vision Pro a lot — more than I thought I would. I tried as many possible use cases as I could. But I’m still not clear what I’ll be dying to do on Vision Pro instead of another device. Unlike a new iPhone in 2007, those use cases are not immediately obvious to me, nor are they 10x better on Vision Pro.

For quick information, or any use case on the go, my iPhone wins out. For longer sessions of work, my Mac wins out. For exercise, Apple Watch wins out. Even for relaxing and watching a movie, typically with one or two other people, my TV wins out.

Vision Pro would likely take away from the time I spend watching or reading content on my iPad, which is a relatively small piece of my overall device usage. For now.

As the device gets thinner, lighter, and even more capable, as Apple products are famously known to do, those use cases will emerge. In my opinion, it’s not a question of ‘if’, but a question of ‘when’ and ‘how big’ spatial computing will become.

Go deeper: For even more on Vision Pro, here’s my discussion with Gene on YouTube.


Subscribe to our newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Back To Top