Obviously, my Apple Watch prediction was extremely, comically wrong, for a few reasons.
First, I underestimated Apple’s ability to expand a market, turning a niche product category into a mainstream one. In 2013, there were other smartwatches on the market, and none of them had been huge hits, so I came to the conclusion that the Apple Watch wouldn’t be a huge hit, either. I looked at the bulky, ugly aesthetics of existing smartwatches and concluded that the kinds of people who were willing to wear them on their wrists every day — nerds like me — weren’t a big enough market to matter.
But I neglected to remember that Apple is Apple, and that it has repeatedly demonstrated that it can, through sheer force of will, turn a niche product for nerds into a thing that everyone wants.
That’s a testament to the company’s famous product and marketing prowess. And it’s part of why I’m reluctant to dismiss the Vision Pro’s chances.
Sure, there are good virtual and mixed-reality headsets out there, and even some decent apps for them. But those headsets aren’t made by Apple, and they haven’t been seamlessly integrated into the entire Apple ecosystem the way that Vision Pro will be. Having all of your iPhone contacts, iMessages and iOS settings integrated into a mixed-reality headset from the moment you turn it on could mean the difference between a device you actually use every day, and a novelty toy you shove into a closet after a few weeks.
Another error I made with the Apple Watch back in 2013 is that I forgot that human behavior is not fixed, and that our ideas of what is considered fashionable and socially acceptable change all the time in response to new technologies.
Back then, part of what I was reacting to was a social norm. At the time, it might have been considered rude to glance at your watch during a meeting, or while having dinner with your family. But a decade later, that action no longer registers (to me, at least) as inappropriate, because so many people now have Apple Watches that many people have developed new norms around it. Now, we assume that people who check their watches at dinner are probably trying to avoid pulling out their phones, which would be ruder and more disruptive. In other words, mass adoption killed the taboo.
The same thing could happen now with mixed-reality headsets. Sure, you might feel self-conscious putting on a Vision Pro today. But a few years from now, if a third of your co-workers are joining Zoom calls with their headsets, and you see people watching V.R. movies on every flight you take, it might not feel so dumb.