What do you need to go with a new cutting-edge mixed reality product? Computers to create virtual worlds on. That seems to be what Apple plans to introduce at WWDC next week.
Is Apple about to turn AR hype into happening?
All eyes are on Apple in the prelude to the company’s big developer jamboree beginning June 5. AR and VR industry leaders are hoping hard that the company’s announcements will be wind beneath the wings of a business opportunity that hasn’t really manifested itself beyond the hype.
Competitors, including Meta, probably expect to poke around at whatever Apple has to share so they can steal better ideas than they seem to have had so far. Developers will be hoping for new tools with which to build AR, VR, and mixed reality experiences. (It looks like they won’t be disappointed).
The rest of us? We’re just hoping to be blown away by Apple’s next big idea and the astonishing 4K per eye Micro OLED lenses its goggles are expected to bring. The tech will form a blank canvas for innovation and ideas.
Machines to code new worlds
But what else do you give to developers you’re asking to create all-new realities and “code new worlds”? At time of writing, it appears Apple thinks developers are going to need new Macs.
The company is now expected to introduce “several new Macs” at the show. These may include a much speculated upon 15-inch MacBook Air, a Mac Pro, a Mac Studio, and potentially an M3 MacBook Pro (which is less likely).
That speculation is supported as Apple quietly announced that it will begin accepting the Mac Studio as a trade-in for new Macs starting from June 5. The Macs, which may also include a souped-up M2 Pro Mac mini, are expected to use M2-variant processors, as the M3 chip may not launch until later this year.
But it’s not just a virtual problem
Of course, beyond the need to empower developers with tools to build AR, Apple has another problem it wants to solve: it needs to boost Mac sales. Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri shared that Mac revenue fell 31% Y-o-Y in the last quarter.
While not quite as extreme a fall as IDC had earlier predicted, the company will very much want to turn that ship around, and what better way to do so than to introduce new models at a time when they can bask in the reflected glory of its new AR headsets? The world will know about these things, just as it will be primed for new operating systems come fall.
Zoom out, and Apple likely sees a bigger picture.
While the entire PC industry has shared pain in recent months, Apple has fared better than rivals and has actually grown market share. At the same time it claimed a larger chunk of the overall market, it has also been able to maintain 96% customer satisfaction levels, Maestri said.
In other words, Apple’s fundamental direction seems solid as analysts predict a PC industry turnaround across the rest of 2023.
Building business in a mixed-up reality
Canalys predicts US PC shipments will see a year-on-year growth of 6% by the end of the year. The analysts also predict full-year shipments in 2024 to be 13% higher than they will be in 2023. To me, this implies that as PC sales recover across the coming year, Apple’s new WWDC Macs (and that reflected glory I spoke about) will be ready to build share on the back of that growth.
The best way I know to get a swift sense of that ongoing story will be to continue to check the direction of travel on StatCounter. Already in the US, Windows is down to 53.43%, while Apple now accounts for 31.34% share, and this pattern of growth has been sustained for years.
What may give Apple cause for added optimism is that Microsoft will shutter Windows 10 for good in 2024. In theory, this means PC users will drift to Windows 11, but for many, Apple has emerged as a perfectly viable choice. That’s particularly true in the enterprise. You can even run Windows 11 on a Mac — but these days that’s no longer a business necessity for most.
While the big news will be around Apple’s new mixed reality product, the background story will be how the company seeks to cast its Apple Silicon-powered Macs as the perfect advanced complement to the world’s most sophisticated AR tech.
With that in mind, don’t be too surprised if Apple’s processor evolution road map turns out to be slightly swifter than originally thought. Subject to availability, of course.
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