Apple announced its Vision Pro headset on Monday and, while the iMac Pro, Mac Pro, and MacBook Pro have all been targeted at high-level professionals in the past, the audience for the Apple Vision Pro is a lot less obvious.
It's one of the first times we've seen Apple launch a "pro" device without a corresponding entry-level equivalent since the MacBook Pro in 2006. And, just like the MacBook Pro, the Apple Vision Pro was a "one more thing" surprise at the end of an Apple keynote.
The "pro" label has long lost its meaning across the industry since those early MacBook Pro days. While the "pro" label on iPhones has come to mean a better camera and screen, Apple hasn't announced a regular Apple Vision headset without the "pro", so this definition doesn't apply here... yet. And, the Apple Vision Pro isn't clearly going after high-level creative professionals in the same way the MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and iMac Pro have done in the past, either.
There was a brief demo shown using a virtual keyboard to send a message, but not the complex type of "pro" interactions for text, document, and image manipulation using just your voice, hands, and eyes that we've come to expect from pro devices with a traditional mouse and keyboard attached.
In fact, it looks like you'll need a physical keyboard and mouse for that precise type of control on the Vision Pro. Because, like the iPad, developers will need to adapt their apps for this new input. Apple demonstrated the ability to use Bluetooth accessories like its Magic Trackpad and Magic Keyboard for when you want to type up long e-mail or fill out information in a spreadsheet. You can even remotely connect to a Mac screen and make it a portable and private 4K display in the headset, running alongside apps built for the Vision Pro headset.
"This powerful combination of capabilities makes Apple Vision Pro perfect for the office or for when you're working remote," said Allessandra McGinnis, a product manager for Apple Vision Pro, during Apple's WWDC 2023 keynote.
One area where the Apple Vision Pro looks like it will excel is video calling. FaceTime looks slick, with virtual app sharing and a room-filling interface that expands as life-size people join the call. It's not too dissimilar to what both Microsoft and Meta have been working on for immersive meetings, but once again, it's all about consumption, not creation.
"This is powerful for so many activities, like reviewing a presentation, sharing photos and videos, or watching a movie together," said McGinnis.
"With Vision Pro you're no longer limited by a display," said Apple CEO Tim Cook when introducing the don't-call-it-VR headset to the world. The idea of having a mobile triple-monitor set-up with me while I'm travelling sounds great and a killer feature for many professionals, but it's also largely the same thing VR headsets have been doing for years now.
Microsoft was also quick to pledge its support for the Apple Vision Pro headset, enabling Apple to briefly demo Excel, Word, and Teams running on the headset. Adobe Lightroom also works on the Vision Pro and was shown being controlled with the eyes and hand gestures. Having these big names on board will undoubtedly push other developers to eagerly adapt their iPad and iPhone apps for Apple's new headset.
Apple's headset uses the same software frameworks available on iPadOS and iOS for visionOS, the operating system that powers the Vision Pro headset. "This means hundreds of thousands of iPad and iPhone apps will be available on Vision Pro at launch," said Susan Prescott, Apple's VP of worldwide developer relations, during the company's WWDC 2023 keynote. Just how well developers are able to adapt them is key to whether Apple's "spatial computing" can replace or just assist our existing "pro" tools.