Lance Ulanoff: Is this the most important Apple Event in a decade? Me: No.

Lance Ulanoff, editor in chief of TechRadar, has a new piece stating that tomorrow’s March 8 2022 Apple Event could be the most important Apple Event in a decade.

Ulanoff goes over the devices that many people think will be announced:

  • iPhone SE
  • MacBook Air
  • Mac Mini
  • … updated with an M2 processor
  • AirPods Pro 2

And then he adds a surprise, Apple AR Glasses.

Ulanoff’ s big belief is that … well, I’ll let him explain it.

It’s been seven years since Apple tackled a completely new product category with its Apple Watch, a product that dominates smartwatch shipments and the traditional watch market.

This is dumb. It’s Ulanoff saying, “It’s been a long time since Apple showed us something entirely new, I think now’s the time.” Based on… wishful thinking. That’s it.

Yes, Apple has done some work on making an augmented reality headset. But no one wears an existing one for very long – they tend to be most useful for car racing simulators and other games.

To suggest that Apple is going to make one that you wear full time, or for extended periods of time, suggests that Apple has figured out how to make it non-invasive. I hope that they have. But I don’t expect it at all during this event.

The surprise to actually expect

Apple has a tendency to get out of a market when there’s nothing more they can accomplish there – when the category has become a commodity.

Apple was in the laser printer market in the 80s with the LaserWriter. They got out of it. They were in the inkjet market, white-labeling Canon inkjets. They got out of it.

They were in the digital camera market with QuickTake. They stopped.

And more recently, they were in the Wi-Fi market with Apple AirPort Wi-Fi routers. They got out of it.

Apple has had displays for years, even going back 20 years with the Apple Cinema Displays. In recent years, they’ve ceded all but the highest cost displays to LG instead, selling LG in the Apple Retail Store.

It turns out, the LG displays kind of suck, and their customer support is pretty garbage, too. They had initial problems with radio interference, and the new 14 and 16 inch MacBook Pro don’t seem to play nice with the LG 5k Ultrafine displays, not waking up from sleep properly.

Apple is rumored to introduce their own display at this event. And maybe a desktop that’s named “studio”, like a pro-level Mac mini. That’s it. That’s the big surprise. And it’s good, especially for people who need multiple monitors. But it’s not an AR headset, not an Apple Car, and not an Apple Television Set.

What Apple is really doing

Apple is on a multi-year transition to move all computer products (and iPad!) to the M1 architecture. This removes their dependence on Intel for CPU and NVIDIA or AMD for graphics processors.

My personal expectation is that we don’t see new product categories like AR headsets until this transition is complete.

Is this the biggest event in a decade? Only if the transition to the M-architecture is a big deal.

An iPhone SE is an excellent phone, especially on a budget, and especially since you get the new fast CPU. Apple’s Augmented Reality visions are longer and deeper than just strapping on some goggles. It’s not about making the headset, it’s about figuring out the interactions and experiences that will make it meaningful, that will feel so natural and useful that users will want to do them frequently.

Until that’s figured out, no, Apple is not launching an AR headset. Let’s go back to Ulanoff. Writing about Tim Cook’s job, he says,

His next words will be about how Apple meets our new normal with a new set of tech wizardry. This cannot be a run-of-the-mill collection of middling updates.

We need new products, new technologies, eye-popping colors that remind us we’re alive, and more. It is the perfect time for Apple to set a new course with one (maybe two) new product categories that remind us that Apple is not just a peddler of sexy gadgets and ever-expanding (and lucrative) services. It’s an innovator.

Again, this is wishful thinking. WHY do we have to have new products, new technologies, and eye popping colors right now? Because Ulanoff wants it, or Apple is doomed to just be a seller of gadgets and services.

Ulanoff will get his wish for colors. Apple regularly adds and updates colors of products. The iPhone SE and the MacBook Air could come in new colors.

But as much as I would like to see something amazing, just launching amazing new technology isn’t enough, or even the point. It’s about experiences and interactions that make it indispensable. Sometimes a product takes a few versions to figure out what that is, but I don’t believe that it will happen for this event.

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