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There are multiple indicators that 2022 could be the year of the AR Headset for Apple, with several sources predicting that Apple is poised to at least announce the product next year.
In fact, the evidence is beginning to pile up, as it looks like Apple is beginning to expand its talent base beyond engineers and designers, now building the marketing team that will be needed to actually brand and promote the product.
According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, this has begun with the bold new step of hiring Andrea Schubert away from Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook).
I’m told the company has hired Andrea Schubert, Meta Platforms Inc.’s communications and public relations head for its augmented reality efforts. Meta, with Oculus, has been the market leader in headsets, so such a hire makes sense as Apple nears its launch.Mark Gurman
According to her LinkedIn profile, Schubert has led “the Augmented Reality, XR, Portal and Research comms teams” at Meta’s consumer hardware division, known as “Reality Labs.”
Specifically, this put Schubert at the helm of the launch of all Oculus VR headsets over the past five years, including the Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, and Oculus Quest models. Her profile notes that she handled “day-to-day comms” and also oversaw strategy for major product release events, from Facebook’s own F8 conference to CES and Sundance.
Schubert has also dealt with the “full portfolio of VR products,” including “non-gaming content,” which puts her in an ideal position to promote Apple’s AR Headset, which is expected to embrace many applications beyond the gaming sphere.
To be clear, Schubert’s move to Apple is just a rumour at this point — her LinkedIn profile still lists her as working for Meta — although Gurman has a pretty good track record when it comes to such things. Even if her appointment turns out to be true, however, it’s not entirely clear what her role will be within Apple.
Apple actually began building its augmented reality marketing team over two years ago, when it assigned Apple veteran Frank Casanova to the position of Senior Director of Worldwide Product Marketing for Apple’s Augmented Reality initiative.
Casanova has over 30 years of history working at Apple, where he’s also served as the Senior Director of iPhone Partner Marketing since 2007. Although most assumed in 2019 that his assignment to augmented reality marketing was a move, Casanova’s LinkedIn profile shows that he appears to have been “double-hatted” for nearly three years, continuing to also serve as Senior Director of iPhone Partner Marketing — a position that he’s held since 2007.
When Is Apple’s AR Headset Coming?
Over the past few years, multiple reports have pointed to 2021 as the year that we would see Apple’s first AR headset, but with only three days remaining in 2021, it’s pretty safe to say that won’t be happening.
We may never know for sure whether Apple’s plans were delayed due to the ongoing pandemic, or if 2021 was just sheer optimism on the part of leakers and supply chain analysts. This means that even reports of a 2022 launch should be taken with some amount of salt, but it’s also fair to say that Apple is lining up more pieces of the puzzle, and certainly such a high-profile hire onto its AR marketing team suggests that the headset will soon be moving from concept, design, and prototyping into reality.
Some normally reliable supply chain analysts have predicted that Apple could actually have the new headset on sale by this time next year, with a preview of the technology at WWDC to get developers on board, followed by a fall announcement.
While that’s not completely out of the question, it’s not typical of how Apple rolls when it comes to entirely new product releases. The first iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and even the HomePod were all announced months before they actually went on sale, so there’s every reason to assume that Apple’s AR Headset will be no different.
After all, this is the company’s first big new product category in seven years. Apple will want to give developers time to get excited about the new technology and ramp up their own apps — hence the likelihood of a WWDC announcement.
Further, Apple wants to control the narrative, showing off the product before leakers get their hands on actual specs and start telling everybody about it. It’s bad enough Apple has to deal with leaks for each year’s new iPhone model, but those are almost always iterative updates to a known product. An AR headset will be an entirely new ballgame.
By all reports, however, the first generation of the AR Headset is expected to be a premium device, with a price tag upwards of $1,000. In that sense, it will also follow in the footsteps of the original iPhone, which didn’t even begin to get widespread adoption until the second-generation iPhone 3G was released a year later.
Even though the first AR headset that Apple products may be little more than an expensive proof-of-concept, there’s little doubt that Apple will keep it that way. In fact, reports have suggested that this is the first step toward Apple’s goal to change the face of mobile computing, with some in the company believing that wearable AR technology like this could someday replace the iPhone entirely.
[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.]