The Financial Times reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook sided with operations chief Jeff Williams to launch a first-generation mixed-reality headset device this year, against the wishes of the company’s design team.
The release date of the mixed-reality headset appears to have been a source of considerable contention at Apple. The company’s industrial design team cautioned that devices in the category were not yet ready for release and wished to postpone the launch until a product for lightweight AR glasses matured several years later.
Apple’s operations team desired to ship an early version of the product in the form of a VR-focused headset resembling ski goggles that enables users to watch 3D videos, perform interactive workouts, and make FaceTime calls with virtual avatars.
Tim Cook, who served as Apple’s operations chief before becoming CEO, reportedly sided with Jeff Williams, overriding the objections of Apple’s designers and pressing for an early launch with a limited product. Former Apple engineers who worked on the device described the “huge pressure to ship” to the Financial Times.
In 2019, following the departure of design chief Jony Ive, Apple’s design team reports directly to Williams. Under Steve Jobs, design dictated the direction of Apple’s products, but employees have observed that under Tim Cook, product development is increasingly governed by operations. One former engineer stated that the most enjoyable aspect of working at Apple was devising engineering solutions to meet the “insane requirements” of the design team, but this has reportedly changed over the past few years.
Apple’s headset has reportedly been in development for seven years, which is twice as long as it took for the original iPhone to reach the market. The device is viewed as directly tied to Tim Cook’s legacy, as Apple’s first new computing platform developed under his direction.
The company anticipates selling approximately one million headsets in its first year of availability at a price point of $3,000. Apple is rumoured to be planning a “marketing blitz” for the product later this year.