I’d like to make something abundantly clear.

Although I’ve moaned a lot about the lack of any meaningful tech news recently, I’m not at all concerned, depressed, or frightened of it. In fact, I feel more excited than ever about the industry within which I reside.

It feels revolutionary, transitional, and edgy. More importantly, big brands appear to be at a loss – caught on the hop and immediately placed into the dark by startups whose products have swung every available spotlight in their direction.

I love this. It feels like guerrilla warfare. And I think what happens next for Apple, in particular, is absolutely critical.

What’s next, Tim?

I get the sense that things need to change. Don’t you?

We’re all bored of the next smartphone unless it does something interesting like fold in half or inexplicably illuminate lights on its rear casing. Computers are so fast and capable that it’s impossible to buy a bad one. Smartwatches are utterly useless unless they start with ‘Apple’ and end with ‘Watch’.

So, what does a company like Apple do next?

Well, apparently, they reveal a new VR/AR/mixed reality (delete as appropriate) headset.

But is it the wrong time for this?

I think it might be.

Does anyone care about VR?

If I type ‘Apple VR’ into Google Trends, it spits out this graph:

Apple VR

Now, there is an issue here. Because Apple’s expected new product is still ostensibly a rumour, no one knows how to refer to it. I should, therefore, in the interests of balance, conduct a couple more searches.

This is the trend graph for ‘Apple AR’ for the last 30 days:

Apple VR

Here’s one for ‘Apple Mixed Reality’:

Apple VR

Lastly, here’s one for ‘Apple headset’:

Apple VR

These graphs show spikes in interest which seem to occasionally coincide with new rumour murmurings from Chief Executive Rumour Twiddler of the Apple Almost News Network, Mark Gurman. The interest is anything but consistent, though, and there are periods where there is literally no engagement with those search terms at all.

So, does anyone care about what Apple may or may not do in the VR space?

Clearly, there’s some interest, but it isn’t what you’d call regular or predictable.

To stand any chance of success in this area, Apple needs to reveal something that is capable of gaining the attention of a very distracted audience – and that is no mean feat.

The pricing problem

If the rumours are to be believed, Apple’s headset will cost around $3,000.

Basically, it’s going to be bloody expensive and out of reach for most people.

That immediately makes it a Mac Pro-like product; something that’s intended for people with deep pockets, and who have commercial imperatives for such technology. There will be the outliers, of course – those with a love of Apple that runs so deep they’ll forgo some of life’s necessities just to own the next big thing. But those people are, once again, in the minority.

If this thing is priced out of the market for most people, what use will it be to Apple’s relevancy beyond making those points on the Google trend graphs spike a little higher?

Even if the pricing rumours turn out to be completely off the mark, there are unfortunately plenty more issues Apple must battle with if they really are going all-in on VR.

The inherent issues with VR

I should note, once again, that I haven’t tried any kind of VR technology recently. I should also confirm that I don’t believe it to be a fad or entirely useless. From what I hear and see of the VR headsets and experiences that are currently out there, it is a genuinely engaging way to work, play, and interact.

It’s just weird. Still.

To experience this stuff, you have to strap a great big headset to your face. My girlfriend isn’t going to do that for any longer than I insist she tries. My dad might give it a go before asking for the TV remote. My mates will demand a night of VR gaming. But, once those experiments are finished, everyone will return to reality – literally.

You need a really good reason to strap something to your face. This is why VR has never caught on. Ever.

It hasn’t though, has it? As cool, capable, and genuinely immersive as VR might be, it has always felt like the last, desperate station of technological innovation. We’ve visited the moon, created immensely powerful computers that can slot into our pockets, and built software that can teach itself stuff. There needs to be something else, right? So, let’s return to VR. Again. It’ll be like Tron this time – honest.

The problems with VR’s inability to work itself into everyday life are exacerbated by Apple’s insistence on only launching stuff when they feel it’s ready and after everyone else has made a hash of it. This has served them well in the past – just look at the iPhone. But when the thing they’re working on is overtaken by something else that’s already in the wild and proving immensely useful, Tim and co. have a problem.

Final thought

Despite my concerns about Apple’s next big venture, there’s no escaping the fact that it will still make big headlines. Like it or not, Apple drives the narrative, whether the weight of opinion is on its side or against it.

I’ve managed to get through this entire blog post without mentioning a two-letter abbreviation for something which is hogging the tech headlines at the moment. Yet, you were all thinking about it while reading my thoughts, weren’t you?

Oh yes, you were.

That’s the problem Apple faces at the moment. And I cannot wait to see how they respond. We’re in for quite a 12 months ahead, folks.

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