After recently renewed enthusiasm for the arrival of Apple's long-awaited AR wearables -- the subject of multiple reports and rumors over the past few years -- some of that excitement may now be dampened a bit.
But this time around, the Apple smartglasses news comes from Apple's own internal team, rather than analysts citing unnamed sources.
In a meeting with upwards of 1,000 employees at the Steve Jobs Theater, Mike Rockwell, Apple's vice president in charge of VR and AR initiatives, revealed the team's product roadmap for AR hardware. Instead of 2020 or 2021, the executive told his team that an untethered AR headset would instead launch in 2022, according to a report from CNBC citing The Information on the meeting's details.
The initial immersive computing headset would be followed in 2023 by AR smartglasses, currently codenamed N421, with a smaller form factor designed for everyday wear.
Both products would display 3D content in the user's field of view, similar to how ARKit operates on iPhones and iPads today.
The product roadmap corroborates previous reports that Apple's first AR wearable would be a hybrid VR/AR headset, currently under development under the codename T288. More recent reports of code discovered in iOS 13 builds also refer to the testing of an AR headset.
Analyst reports and rumors about the timeline for the arrival of Apple AR wearables have generally agreed upon 2020 as the event horizon, though noted analyst Gene Munster pushed back the expected timeline to December 2021 in a report published last year.
More recently, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple's AR wearable would be announced in the first half of 2020, with shipping commencing later next year. Missing from reports of Apple's internal meeting are any mentions of an iPad Pro with rear depth sensor, which remains a realistic possibility considering that Samsung has begun integrating similar components in its current-generation Galaxy handsets.
While the recent reports, particularly being attributed to Apple leadership, will disappoint AR enthusiasts, the adjusted roadmap reflects the timelines for AR devices from other technology giants. Facebook's AR smartglasses won't arrive before 2023, according to recent reports, while Snap CEO Evan Spiegel predicts that fully immersive AR smartglasses are another 10 years away from mainstream adoption.
But can the AR industry, particularly the component-making startups banking on consumer electronics makers to build and ship AR headsets en masse, survive in time for the market to mature? With Magic Leap, the AR unicorn with approximately $2.4 billion in funding, showing cracks in its financial foundation, the answer to that question is as mysterious as ever.