The Financial Times says that Apple CEO Tim Cook sided with operations chief Jeff Williams in pushing to release 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 seems to have caused a lot of trouble at Apple. The company’s industrial design team warned that devices in this category were not yet ready for launch. They wanted to wait until a lightweight AR glasses product was ready a few years later. On the other hand, Apple’s operations team wanted to ship an early version of the product in the form of a VR-focused headset like ski goggles that lets users watch 3D videos, do interactive workouts, or make FaceTime calls with virtual avatars.
Tim Cook, who was in charge of Apple’s operations before he became CEO, is said to have sided with Jeff Williams, overriding the objections of Apple’s designers and pushing for an early launch with a more limited product. In an interview with the Financial Times, former Apple engineers who worked on the device talked about the “huge pressure to ship.”
Since the head of design, Jony Ive, left Apple in 2019, the design team now reports directly to Williams. Under Steve Jobs’s leadership, Apple’s products were led by design, but employees have noticed that under Tim Cook’s leadership, operations are taking more control over product development. One former engineer said that the best part of working at Apple was coming up with engineering solutions to meet the “insane requirements” of the design team, but that seems to have changed in recent 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 come out. The device is seen as a direct part of Tim Cook’s legacy, since it was Apple’s first new computing platform to be made entirely under his leadership.
The company still thinks that it will only sell around a million headsets in its first year on the market, even though it will cost around $3,000. Still, Apple is reportedly planning a “marketing blitz” for the product later this year.