Joe 90 had mixed-reality vision 55 years ago!

Joe 90 was there 55 years ago. Apple spent a fortune on developing the mega-hyped VisionPro mixed reality headset – and it comes with a battery pack??? WTF! It won’t sink the company, but may remind us its mortal.

Blain’s Morning Porridge 6th June 2023:  Joe 90 had mixed-reality vision 55 years ago!

“How does it feel with three and half thousand bucks strapped to your face?”

Joe 90 was there 55 years ago. Apple spent a fortune on developing the mega-hyped VisionPro mixed reality headset – and it comes with a battery pack??? WTF! It won’t sink the company, but may remind us its mortal.

Interesting day in markets. Y’day, one of my equity chums was hopping up and down with excitement about.. well practically everything. A “bull breakout” in all the big tech names I apparently underway… oh, really? It’s all supported by the strength of Friday’s jobs number, better indications on inflation numbers (actually, I thought last week’s were somewhat worrying), strong ISM business numbers and Saudi cutting oil production barely denting prices.

And to cap it all, the biggest and most important New, New Bright Shiny White Thing launch in Apple’s history as Steve Jobs Tim Cook unveiled the $3500 Ford Edsel Apple VisonPro thingymajiggery thingy, took place. Joy.

I’m not actually sure what a $3500 VisonPro actually is.. but heck, I had no idea what an iPod was 20 years ago… Since then iPod tech has so changed my life I have de-evolved and reverted back to an earlier age where I now collect vinyl albums again..

(There is a lesson in why I buy vinyl in there somewhere.)

To be blunt, the iPod was when Apple last did something truly revolutionary, new and innovative. On the back of marrying iPod tech to a phone and a laptop, Apple has sold 200 million iPhones making it the most lucrative company on the planet. Smartphones – great idea. Glad I owned the stock.

But headsets? Not so hot I think. A mere 9 million Nerd Helmets (headsets) have been sold over the past 8 years, and they remain generally crap and “clunky” according to reviews. Meta’s offering makes folk feels they are being seasick. (I have flown a digital Lancaster Bomber simulation with headsets and chair… great fun and very realistic in a clearly absolutely unrealistic way… and very disorientating.)

Headsets are getting better… which is simply marvellous if you think you have a use for them. Which I probably don’t. I have absolutely no doubt $3500 will buy you the absolute Rolls Royce of headsets.. Actually not a headset.. A VisionPro. Strap it to your face and enter the world of whatever it is. Er… I think I will wait for the glasses – which I what I’ve been waiting for, for decades.

I’ve been waiting since 1968 when Joe 90 hit the small screen.

For younger readers, this morning’s photo is Joe 90, a 9-year old superspy, enabled by his glasses which could interface with his mind. Joe’s dad, Prof Joe McClaine, invented the computer glasses/human interface about 55 years ago – as imagined by the creator of Thunderbirds; the brilliant Gerry Anderson . Check out Joe 90 to find out more. The key thing is the computer glasses. Winners every time… Headsets… not so much.

I think that’s what the VisonPro really wanted to be.. wearable tech, unobtrusive glasses, barely noticed, feeding real time and metaverse into your eyes as you react in both worlds… Ouch. My head hurts just thinking about how difficult that future is going to be.. I mean my brain’s bandwidth with can barely maintain a conversation while trying to drink coffee.

The thing is… Apple must have felt it had to do something. They have rushed out something that looks fantastic on the stage presentation, on the marketing puff and promo videos, but is still a very, very obvious headset with an attached battery pack…. Battery Pack? You got to be kidding me. Fraid not. Battery pack. Yep. Says it all. It’s taken Apple 8 years, 1000 engineers and a $1 bln budget to design a headset with a battery pack?? C’mon.

So just what is the Apple Vision pro? No. Still no idea. You wear it to interreact with the real and digital world… apparently. WTF does that actually mean? If I want to play a game.. I play a game. I react with the real world by going into the office.. or going on Zoom… oh. I could pay $3500 to go on Zoom in another way? Why?

Will Apple’s headset get it right? Microsoft didn’t. Meta didn’t. Google didn’t. A host of others doing sets for gaming have failed to gain traction. Clearly there is a market, and maybe it’s in the metaverse which is worth the square root of diddley-squat these days.

I understand there are doubters within Apple’s HQ – who reckon VisionPro is not going to go anywhere fast. That would be a credibility knock for Tim Cook who’s thus far successfully pretended Apple is still cutting edge and innovative, while getting on with the important stuff of selling lots of very expensive bright shinny things to young folk who love the tech – actually the brand because IOS tech is difficult – and had the money to buy it because they are still living at home and can’t afford to buy houses… or something like that.

What happens to Apple when the New, New Bright Shinny Thing Magic tarnishes? Or when nerds mature? I’ve been asking these questions for decades.. Apple needs to keep selling, which means making stuff better, and, yes, selling it better.. which is why reinventing the Apple Store would be much bigger news than a headset launch.. (I don’t think the VisionPro will cause an immediate crisis for Apple, but it will have consequences, not least being the need to be innovative.)

Oh wait… hot of the press.. your new VisonPro will let you interface with the AppleStore to buy more Apple stuff in a much more dynamic and exciting way. There you go, spend $3500 to buy more bright shinny stuff in a marginally different way.

I will wait for the Joe90s.

Five Things to Read This Morning

FT                    Apple unveils Vision Pro “mixed reality” headset

WSJ                 Apple’s Augmented Reality Faces Real Questions

BBerg              Jim Grant Warns of a Bond Selloff Lasting for Years

BBerg              Half of Large Firms Plan to Cut Office Space, Knight Frank Says

Guardian         What does Jeff Bezos’s new fiancée see in the World’s third richest man? Must be his enormous philanthropy


Out of time and back to the day job.. unlikely to be a porridge tomorrow..


Bill Blain

Strategist – Shard Capital