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Apple WWDC 2023 Recap: Yep, It’s Mixed Reality!

The News: Apple recently held its Worldwide Developers Conference 2023 (Apple WWDC 2023) at its corporate headquarters where the company finally released its highly anticipated entry into the spatial computing (AR/VR) market with its Apple Vision Pro headset. The company also announced its new 15-inch MacBook Air with its M2 chip, Mac Studio with its M2 Max and M2 Ultra, and Mac Pro with M2 Ultra. Apple also previewed new features to its iOS 17, iPadOS17, macOS Sonoma, and WatchOS 10. For more details on Apple’s WWDC23 event click here.

Apple WWDC 2023 Recap: Yep, It’s Mixed Reality!

Analyst Take: Apple held its Worldwide Developers Conference 2023 where the company made a flurry of announcements such as its new 15-inch MacBook Air with its M2 chip, Mac Studio with its M2 Max and M2 Ultra, and Mac Pro with M2 Ultra. Apple also previewed its iOS 17, iPadOS17, macOS Sonoma, and WatchOS 10. Naturally, what everyone has been waiting for is the company launched its entry into the spatial computing or mixed reality market (AR/VR) with its Apple Vision Pro headset device, which did not disappoint in my opinion.

MacBook Air 15-Inch: Lighter, Quieter, Sleeker, More Power, and Longer Battery

Apple launched its 15.3-inch MacBook Air, which is larger than the 13-inch device outfitted with its M2 processor with a starting price of $1,299 and $1,199 for the education market. The company mentioned that the device is 12 times faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Air. The device is slimmed down to 11.5 millimeters, weighs 3.3 pounds, has up to 50% more battery life (lasting up to 18 hours), has a six-speaker sound system, a silent fanless design, up to 24 GB of memory and 2 TB of storage. The device is also outfitted with a 1080p camera, a three-microphone array, six speakers, and four woofers for better sound. The device is also bright with 500 nits of brightness.

Apple WWDC 2023
Image Source: Apple

Mac Studio and Mac Pro: Extremely Powerful and Compact

Also, at the Apple WWDC23 event, the company announced its new Mac Studio(s) and Mac Pro targeting creative users who require premium devices for movie editing and the like.

Image Source: Apple

The Mac Studio comes in two models, featuring an M2 Max (lower-end) or an M2 Ultra (higher-end) processor. The Mac Studio is compact, taking up minimal desktop space, which is great for creative professionals who need power in a space such as an apartment, small studio, or other smaller spaces. The height, width, and depth of the device is 3.7 inches (H), 7.7 inches (W) and 7.7 inches (D) weighing 5.9 pounds (M2 Max) and 7.9 pounds (M2 Ultra).

The Mac Studio is outfitted with the M2 Max (lower-end) chip that is 50% faster than the previous generation on Mac Studio and four times faster than the most powerful Intel-based 27-inch iMac. The M2 Max is configurable with up to a 12-core CPU, 38-core GPU, and a 16-core neural engine. The device has 32 GB of unified memory and can be configured up to 64 GB (M2 Max) or 96 GB (M2 Max with 38-core GPU). From a storage perspective, the device is outfitted with a 512 GB SSD and is configurable up to 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, or 8 TB. The M2 Max offers simultaneous support for up to five displays and can also be configured with four displays with 6K resolution at 60Hz, or two displays with 6K resolution at over 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one display with 8K resolution at 60Hz.

The Mac Studio with the M2 Ultra offers two times the performance capabilities of the M2 Max and comes with a 24-core CPU with 16 performance cores, 8 efficiency cores, and a 60-core GPU with a 32-core neural engine. The Mac Studio with the M2 Ultra chip also comes with 64 GB of unified memory and is configurable up to 128 GB or 192 GB. The device has 1 TB of storage and is configurable for up to 2 TB, 4 TB, or 8 TB. The Mac Studio with the M2 Ultra chip supports up to eight displays, which include eight displays with up to 4K resolution at 60Hz, six displays with up to 6K resolution at 60hz, or three displays with up to 8K resolution at 60hz.

MacOS (Sonoma):

Apple also showcased its MacOS Sonoma where the company showcased a plethora of new features to the OS making collaboration much better for its users, enhanced safety and security to protect against threats, improvement for time management and organization, along with entertainment and relaxation.

Image Source: Apple

On the time management and organization front, some of the key features were enhanced and more accurate autocorrect and text predictions, the ability to add widgets on the desktop from the widget gallery, along with the ability to access iPhone widgets on the desktop without having to install corresponding apps on the Mac, and search through messages more efficiently with better search filters. Another feature that should resonate with users was the ability autofill PDF documents securely with saved information from contacts.

From a collaboration perspective, Apple also introduced several features such as the presenter overlay feature keeping the user front-and-center during conference calls along with a movable floating bubble on your shared screen allowing you to put the bubble on areas of the presentation where you are speaking and keeping users in the frame ensuring users have an equitable experience. Another feature on the collaboration side that I think will resonate with users is the camera will fill the screen with effects such as hearts, confetti, and fireworks by picking up hand gestures.

On the communication and safety front, macOS offers protection for sensitive videos and photos, such as warning users that they may be viewing sensitive content. Another feature was the ability to create multiple profiles in the Safari browser, keeping work and personal lives separate, which many hybrid workers want today.

On the gaming side, another feature is Game Mode, which automatically gives games a higher priority on the CPU and GPU which lowers usage on background tasks and increases game performance.

iOS 17: Time Savings, More Connected and Aware, and Greater Utility

Apple also introduced its new iOS 17 for smartphones, which added new features that will help its users become more productive, entertained, and connected. On the productivity front, a key feature I really liked was Live Voicemail, which is the ability to see live voicemails – great if you’re in a meeting and can see in real time if a message is important or not.

Image Source: Apple

Also, FaceTime now has a feature allowing the user to receive voicemails, which should resonate with users who use the application for collaboration. As an example, many people today use FaceTime for remote health and the physicians want to ensure the user is the patient. Thus, the physician or patient can leave FaceTime messages, reducing the need to leave a separate voicemail.

Another area saving users time is an improved autocorrect feature for texting and also reduced voice commands by just saying “Siri” versus saying “Hey Siri” to activate the voice command features. I also saw features that would speed up time for users in the sharing content area. The updated iOS 17 enhanced its AirDrop feature, allowing users to share content much easier, whether they are photos with family or files with colleagues. In fact, I really liked the NameDrop feature, allowing users to share contact information (that you choose), which is great for being at conferences and reducing the need for business cards, a nice feature from an ESG perspective. Another area that makes content sharing much richer was the Journal application that uses on-device learning to get suggestions of moments to share such as photos, locations, etc.

I really liked the “Standby” feature, which allows the user to turn their iPhone on its side while charging (image below). In essence, users get a full-screen experience such as a large clock that they can put beside their bed along with widgets users can personalize. I think this will resonate with users where many already use their smartphones as a clock radio that sits on their nightstands or next to their pillow(s). Also, with the always-on display with the iPhone 14 Pro, it should make the experience that much better.

Image Source: Apple

On the safety and security front, I really liked the check-in feature, which makes it easy to share your location with friends, family, and colleagues. In a nutshell, you can set a time when you’re going to be somewhere and if you are delayed, your contacts get automatic notifications if you are being delayed. I can see this being beneficial on many fronts, such as a child walking to and from school, a family member in foul weather conditions, or your buddy who is late to the altar.

iPad OS 17: Time Savings & Management, Health Tracking & Predictions

Apple also announced its iPadOS which also included excellent features that enhance productivity, entertainment, and monitoring. Features that were incorporated into the iPad OS were echoed from iOS 17. Last month, Apple already brought Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, its industry-leading professional video and music creation applications, to iPad, which was redesigned from the ground up to be a touch-first experience.

The new iPad OS 17 includes features such as widgets and a lock screen, making life easier for its users. Within the widgets, users can interact with them without even opening the application. As an example, if you are checking off tasks, the user can check them off and they disappear within the widget.

Image Source: Apple

A great feature the lock screen offers is live activities. As an example, the user can get alerts such as food order(s) from companies such as Uber Eats, get travel plans or updates for an upcoming flight, and the score of a game. Another feature I liked was the ability to set and name multiple timers, which is great for studying, work, and other areas. The iPadOS also now offers the health OS app, allowing users to monitor and track their health and also sync with other devices.

WatchOS 10: Safer, Healthier, Easier to Use, and More Connected

Apple also announced new features to WatchOS 10 that I thought would resonate with users that help them stay connected, active, healthy, and safe. From a health perspective, the company introduced a cycling application that allows you to connect with Bluetooth-enabled sensors on the bike to pick up additional information, adding richer details for a workout.

The WatchOS 10 also got an update to its compass and map applications that will automatically generate new waypoints that showed the last cellular connection you communicated with your carrier and another dot to show you when another one will be present from yours or another carrier. Another feature that should benefit users is the use of altimeter data where users can see three-dimensional views along with topographic maps that include contour lines and hill shading (in the U.S. only) and elevation details. Although Apple mentioned this is great for finding new trails, I can see this also being a safety feature as well, since it also offers people guidance on the level of difficulty (elevation) it would take to find a lost loved one if you are searching for them if they said they were on a specific trail. Also on the health side, watchOS 10 offers its users information on their mental health which can be correlated with other health information to get a more accurate baseline state and help its users get back to their normal state when a deviation occurs.

Image Source: Apple

Apple also redesigned the watch interface, allowing users to interact with widgets much easier. One of these features is the ability to turn the digital crown, allowing the user to flip through widgets more easily. The company introduced a new watch face that includes a new palette with many different colors as well as the addition of Snoopy and Woodstock, who react to conditions, thereby making the device more fun to interact with. Apple also redesigned applications to make the experience much more useful. As an example, the world clock widget background changes based on the time of day for a particular country.

Audio & Home: Smart Home On the Go, Better Audio, Sharing is Caring

On the smart home front, Apple also gave updates on a few areas such as better acoustic experiences with its AirPods, better content sharing via AirPlay and Apple Car Play, and taking your smart home with you on the road.

Image Source: Apple

The company demonstrated its Adaptive Audio, which it said combines the best of listening modes into one. In essence, it blends transparency and active noise cancellation modes into one and uses machine learning to learn more about the user, matching the volume conditions of their outside surroundings. Thus, if a user is outside walking and, on a call, and all of a sudden, a loud truck drives by, it dynamically adjusts the volume. The company also made it easier for users to have a more lossless experience when switching AirPods from one device to another such as a PC, handset, or tablet.

Another area where Apple is trying to make life more seamless for its users is the ability to allow them to share content whether they are in the smart home, automobile, or in a hotel room.

The company is launching AirPlay in Hotels (with AirPlay support), which allows users to take advantage of the TV screen in the room by simply connecting to the TV with the handset device, scanning the code and you have access to your content on the TV. The company mentioned that the offering will be in select hotels by the end of the year.

Another area that should resonate with users is the ability for users in a car to share music in the car via Apple CarPlay and SharePlay for the car. In a nutshell, when the driver connects their phone to CarPlay, any passenger in the vehicle with an iPhone can join the session and share DJ responsibilities whether they are in the front or back seat. For anyone that has younger or teenage kids in the car who are sure your music is three levels below uncool, this will certainly solve a lot of wrist and forearm pain sparring with them in the car like an old-school Kung Fu movie. If you don’t take my advice, buy a Wing Chung dummy…

Apple also redesigned its tvOS 17 control center, making the experience much more intuitive for its users by making it much easier to adjust and monitor the smart home such as surveillance cameras and other devices. A feature I like via SharePlay is the ability to add FaceTime to Apple TV, where you can conference with your friends and hang out watching a movie while staying in sync.

Apple Vision Pro: Yes, Spatial Computing Is Cool and Part of the Future

And now, for the announcement that surprised nobody unless you were hiding under a rock in Death Valley. Well, my friends, Apple ceremoniously entered the spatial computing market with its Apple Vision Pro headset that will set you back $3,400. Is it expensive? Of course, it is, it’s Apple, they make premium products. Are you really that surprised?

Image Source: Apple

In fact, many of the largest vendors today are trying to enter or invent premium categories as others commoditize over time or enter adjacent markets that are high growth and high margin. Do I think every user in the world is going to use a headset device for their computing, watching TV, video conferencing, and more? Without a doubt, no.

Do you think Apple believes we will be computing on one device as well in the future using extended reality? No, they do not. Fundamentally, the company knows there will be many roads that lead to productivity, entertainment, safety, and security in the future. In essence, you could parallel this to many markets such as the automotive market where there are purists who love their muscle cars (shunning others) while others swear that EVs or hybrids will suppliant everything in the future.

Do I think Apple is pegged to help propel the extended reality (XR) category in the future? Absolutely. The company is famous for its prowess at innovating and entering categories, exciting consumers and businesses, and helping propel the market forward. Thus, Apple entering the market is a good thing for the overall extended reality category and I think its massive base of content creators will make the content we consume today even more realistic in our virtual worlds whether we are gaming, relaxing, or working.

In fact, I continue to observe more people finding more realistic videos on youtube.com and streaming them on their large flat-screen TVs to decompress by watching the mountains in a snowstorm, sitting by a Christmas tree and fireplace, sitting in a car with rain hitting the roof, reading and studying in an English library, on a creaking pirate ship, or sitting in front of a bay window watching and listening to the waves and much more. Fundamentally, I expect the graphics and scenery to get better in the future.

In essence, imagine you are having a stressful day since your Apple Watch is telling you you’re stressed, and you decide to port into that car in the rain to relax. Maybe you’re a screenwriter using Final Draft software (a popular segment for Apple) and you can’t afford the house on the beach to write so you press a button and you’re immersed there, which can stimulate creativity.

On the productivity front, as an example, the ability to have multiple screens is highly attractive and I think as more AI is woven into applications via Microsoft Copilot, we will be playing more with graphs, charts, mind maps, and infographics brainstorming, and wargaming versus crunching numbers. Thus, this opens the door for more collaboration and brainstorming with peers across the organization where different points of view and curiosity often improve analysis since many big trends often start with a micro-trend that may seem insignificant at the time.

From an aesthetic and functional perspective, I think Apple certainly did its homework on creating an attractive attractive-looking device. In fact, the glasses remind me of vintage racing goggles (or ski goggles) that I think will resonate with prosumers. As a side note, Lenovo also partnered with Aston Martin on its ThinkStation design. As a mentor once said to me, there is fashion in everything we buy, and I think Apple did a good job here since our devices are definitely an extension of us. My only caveat is you’re tethered with a cord that is counter to industry trends and what end-users are calling for. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what their opinions are on that moving forward.

The Apple Vision Pro is outfitted with the Apple’s M2 chip (5 nm) and the R1 chip that is designed for mixed reality environments. The headset holds audio pods on port and starboard side with Personalized Spatial Audio that adjusts the sound based on your ear and head geometry that offers a much richer audio experience. The device also uses Audio Ray Tracing which can map the room environment with high precision, offering a much better audio experience for the user. The Apple Vision Pro display type is Micro-LED and has 4K plus resolution on each eye. The device also includes 2 color cameras, LiDAR + TrueDepth depth sensors, eye-to-eye tracking, OpticID for authentication, has six microphones, and a battery life of 2 hours.

Although I have not tested the device, users can navigate their applications with their eyes, tap to select, and flick to scroll along with voice dictation. The device also allows you to see everything in the room and users can see your eyes, which I think is great. The device includes a 3D camera, allowing the user to capture photos and videos with extra depth. On the entertainment front, I really liked how the Apple Vision Pro automatically darkens the room when you are watching a movie along with allowing you to make the screen massive.

Overall, I was impressed with updates at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference 2023 where Apple introduced its 15-inch MacBook Air, Mac Studio, and Mac Pro and previews of its iOS 17, iPadOS17, macOS Sonoma, and WatchOS10. Naturally, most of the excitement was geared towards Apple’s entry into the spatial computing market with its Apple Vision Pro, which did not disappoint, and think Apple has an excellent chance of propelling the market in the future.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other insights from The Futurum Group:

Apple Enters the Fray – Are We Ready for Spatial Computing in Communications?

Apple Releases Freeform for Real-Time Digital Whiteboarding Across Mac, iPad, and iPhone Devices

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