WWDC 2023 was announced on Tuesday, and the expectation is that Apple will use the event to unveil its long-rumored AR/VR headset. However, there seems to be some trepidation within Apple about the viability of the headset as a platform—so much so that there’s a possibility it may not be announced at WWDC after all.
According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo on Twitter, Apple has decided to push the assembly schedule for the headset a couple of months to the latter part of the third quarter of this year. This delay could cause Apple to skip the headset’s expected WWDC unveiling.
Kuo, who has a history of reporting pre-release information that’s more reliable than others, also reports that Apple cut back its shipment forecast to 200,000 to 300,000 units, which is lower than the “market consensus” of 500,000. (Apple has a history of conservative shipment forecasts compared to the market consensus.)
Kuo’s report paints a picture of a company that’s not confident that the headset will create, as Kuo puts it, an “iPhone moment.” His report follows one made by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman this past Sunday, which said that Apple held a demo of the headset for a selected number of influential employees. Gurman said that while the demo was “polished, glitzy and exciting,” Apple executives “are striking a realistic tone” when it comes to its level of success–at best, they expect it to grow in a similar path as the Apple Watch. Also on Sunday, the New York Times reported on “dissension” within Apple’s ranks regarding the headset and its potential.
Even before WWDC was announced, speculation ran high that the event would mainly focus on the headset hardware and the rumored xrOS that runs on it. Anyone looking for hidden meanings in Apple’s WWDC press release will believe that it provides evidence for this–the press release’s image has been interpreted as a representation of Fresnel lenses that are used in VR headsets.
If Apple does decide to put a hold on the headset, that opens the possibility of a fall event, which is traditionally dominated by the iPhone. It’s possible that Apple could make the headset part of that event as it did with the Apple Watch in 2014, though a separate event is possible as well to give proper attention to the headset and present it as a new platform.
Past reports have said that Apple is putting so much of its resources into the headset that the company’s WWDC plans for its other operating systems (iOS, iPadOS, and macOS in particular) are minimal, with few new major features to be revealed, if any. Should the headset be nixed from the WWDC keynote, Apple could choose to use the stage to show off the rumored 15-inch MacBook Air, Apple silicon Mac Pro, or M3 processor.