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VisionOS could be the sleeper hit of WWDC (but probably won’t)

Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a Monday morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.

Vision quest

It’s almost time for WWDC 2024! In just a few hours Tim Cook and Craig Federighi will hit the virtual stage at Apple Park and tell us what’s next for the iPhone, Mac, and other major product lines. Not in the sense of expensive new hardware (although that’ll be along soon enough), but free software updates that will add new features and tweak the interface of the stuff you’ve already paid for. Which is a strange thing for a massively profitable corporation to focus on at arguably its second biggest event of the year, when you come to think about it, but that’s where we’re at.

iOS 18 and macOS 15 will almost certainly dominate the event, for understandable reasons: the Mac is Apple’s signature line–there isn’t a website called Newtonworld*–and the iPhone is its most profitable product. Furthermore, these updates carry the significance of Apple’s first public steps into the world of AI. Still, even with that component, it’s hard to imagine that either update will completely transform users’ experience with their respective products, for the simple reason that they’ve been around for such a long time that all the major pain points were ironed out years ago.

This is in stark contrast with one operating system that I don’t expect to get major stage time at WWDC 2024: visionOS 2.0. Compared to the massive iPhone and Mac user bases, any discussion of Vision Pro software updates will be relevant to the far smaller niche that managed to afford one: probably around 200,000, based on reports. Those folks will be delighted to hear about an upgrade that won’t set them back two months’ rent and there may be some interested watchers who are persuaded by improvements in visionOS 2 to crack open their wallets further down the line. But those two groups combined remain small potatoes in Apple terms. When you’ve got half the world watching your event it’s probably unwise to spend a lot of time about something that most of them can’t afford.

Nevertheless, those few minutes will be worth watching closely, because Vision Pro is in the sweet spot of Apple product development. Despite the company’s reputation for caution and its fondness for arriving in a market after someone else has made all the mistakes, first-gen Apple products are rarely a home run. Frequently the element that will make it successful doesn’t arrive until later, such as the iPhone’s third-party App Store. Sometimes Cupertino doesn’t seem to understand one of its products at all, such as the Apple Watch, which early on was envisioned as a social device to send people doodles and your heartbeat rather than a fitness one. It takes time to get these things right.

Vision Pro is very much in that zone. Reviews pointed out its potential for the future, but it was riddled with flaws and annoyances. Provided Apple remains committed to the concept, these will be addressed systematically across the next one or two generations of hardware, and the next few generations of software. The next (and likely cheaper) entry to the Vision line probably won’t be here for another year or more, but visionOS 2.0 will give us our first major glimpse into how acutely Apple understands the original model’s flaws and how it intends to address them.

More than that, it will give clues to the fate of the tech industry as a whole, desperate as it is to find something to replace the smartphone when that cash cow eventually expires. If Apple can’t work out how to fix spatial computing, then nobody can.

* Okay, it turns out there is, but it’s not the Newton you’re looking for.

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Podcast of the week

The most anticipated Apple event of 2024 starts next week! What should we expect at WWDC24? What are we hoping for? That’s coming up on this episode of the Macworld Podcast!

You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.

The rumor mill: WWDC special

The ‘AI’ at WWDC24 will stand for ‘Apple Intelligence’.

Apple set to disappoint fans with hardware-free WWDC.

Apple’s AI chatbot won’t be enabled unless you want it.

Apple is finally building a Passwords app for all of your devices–even PCs.

The iPhone 16 Pro Max dimensions have leaked–and we have questions.

iPhone 16 Pro design teased to be ‘very close to the dream form’.

Video of the week

Get ready for WWDC with this off-the-wall skit Apple didn’t want you to see.

Software updates, bugs, and problems

It took a WSJ story for Apple to finally fix some years-old Screen Time flaws.

And with that, we’re done for this week’s Apple Breakfast. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Threads, or Twitter for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.