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Apple’s long-rumored AR/VR headset could be getting much closer to launch, with a new report that the company’s executives recently previewed a version of it to Apple’s Board of Directors.
In a new Bloomberg report, Mark Gurman cites sources indicating that the company’s board, which normally convenes about four times per year, saw a version of the device demonstrated during their last privately-held meeting.
The fact that the headset is now ready to be previewed to the board shows that it’s reached an advanced stage of its development, suggesting a product announcement could be right around the corner.
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Apple’s Board is made up of eight independent directors, chaired by Arthur D. Levinson, who has served in that role since 2011 after co-founder Steve Jobs passed away. Levinson has served on Apple’s board since 2000.
The Board of Directors also includes Apple CEO Tim Cook and other notable leaders such as former Vice-President Al Gore, former Boeing CEO James Bell, former Northrop Grumman CEO Ron Sugar, Johnson & Johnson Executive Chair Alex Gorsky, and Andrea Jung, President and CEO of Grameen America. Jung also served as co-lead director alongside Levinson before Jobs’ elevation to Chairman in 2011.
Except for Cook, none of these individuals have any direct role in the day-to-day operations of Apple. Like most corporate boards, they serve in an oversight capacity, guiding the strategic direction of Apple and representing its shareholders. However, this is also the group to which Apple CEO Tim Cook must directly report.
As Gurman explains, Apple’s board is understandably the first group outside of Apple’s regular employees that get to see future products. For example, executives demonstrated Siri to the board several weeks before its public introduction in 2011, around the same time that Steve Jobs resigned as CEO.
Ramping Up Development
The presentation to the board comes as Gurman’s sources also reveal that Apple has been speeding up the development of the new “rOS” reality operating system that’s expected to power the new headset.
Several reports have predicted that Apple plans to release the new headset by early 2023, although it could come as soon as this fall.
In either case, it’s also quite likely that Apple would take the opportunity to announce the product even sooner. The timing of the Board presentation suggests that we could see something at next month’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).
Although Apple keeps most of its product developments quiet, it has often announced groundbreaking products in new categories months ahead of time. This was the case with the original iPhone in 2007, the Apple Watch in 2014, and even the HomePod in 2007.
An earlier announcement helps Apple build hype and control the narrative, which is essential considering how likely leaks are to occur once the manufacturing process begins. This was the case with the original iPhone in 2007, when Jobs famously said, “it would be better if we introduced this rather than asking the FCC to introduce it for us.”
However, we’d caution against getting your hopes up too much. Gurman also notes that even though Apple wanted to unveil it at WWDC, the company has been facing “challenges related to content and overheating,” which may have pushed things back.
Still, for something as significant as a new mixed-reality headset, Apple almost certainly wants to get developers on board with building apps as soon as possible. This would make WWDC the perfect opportunity to at least unveil “rOS” and tease the headset, even if Apple isn’t ready to show us the actual hardware just yet.
Gurman’s report doesn’t offer us any new information on what to expect from the headset, but that’s not surprising since the design and specs should be mostly locked down by now.
As we’ve shared before, the headset will feature chips on par with Apple’s M1 silicon, plus high-resolution 8K screens. It will be a mixed-reality headset that offers both AR and VR.
Apple reportedly has about 2,000 employees working on the device as part of a team known as the Technology Development Group (TDG). The team includes engineering leaders who have worked on other Apple products and key hires from NASA and the gaming, graphics, and audio industries.
It’s still being headed up by Apple VP Mike Rockwell but is now under the supervision of Dan Riccio after he was reassigned last year from his role as Senior VP of Hardware Engineering to head up a secretive special project. To preserve the focus and secrecy of the project, the group is based at a dedicated location a few miles away from Apple Park.
In terms of the software, Apple has reportedly had difficulties finding compelling applications to demonstrate the utility and power of its headset. Thus far, it’s said to be working on AR versions of its core iPhone apps along with some new apps to handle streaming immersive content and holding virtual meetings.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]