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macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman this morning filed a story detailing the internal divisions at Apple that led it to change the course of its AR and VR headset development.


Specifically, the report covers disagreements between former Apple design chief Jony Ive and Mike Rockwell, the executive heading up Apple's secretive 1,000-strong group devoted to VR and AR, regarding fundamental aspects of the headset, codenamed N301.
N301 was initially designed to be an ultra-powerful system, with graphics and processing speeds previously unheard of for a wearable product. The processing capabilities were so advanced—and produced so much heat—that the technology couldn’t be crammed into a sleek headset. Instead, Rockwell’s team planned to sell a stationary hub, which in prototype form resembled a small Mac, that would connect to the headset with a wireless signal. In Rockwell’s early version, the headset would also be able to operate in a less-powerful independent mode.

Ive balked at the prospect of selling a headset that would require a separate, stationary device for full functionality. He encouraged Rockwell and his team to redevelop N301 around the less powerful technology that could be embedded entirely in the device. Rockwell pushed back, arguing that a wireless hub would enable performance so superior that it would blow anything else on the market out of the water. The standoff lasted for months.
According to the report, Apple CEO Tim Cook ultimately sided with Ive, who didn't want Apple promoting technology that would take people out of the real world. As a result, the headset no longer communicates with a separate hub, making graphics unlikely to be as good as they might have been, and download speeds potentially slower.
Although the headset now in development is less technologically ambitious than originally intended, it's pretty advanced. It's designed to feature ultra-high-resolution screens that will make it almost impossible for a user to differentiate the virtual world from the real one. A cinematic speaker system will make the experience even more realistic, people who have used prototypes say.
Prototypes of the N301 are said to look like a smaller Oculus Quest, Facebook's VR headset, with a mostly fabric body but less plastic than the Quest. Apple's engineering teams are reportedly still testing the device on different head shapes to find the ideal fit, and the company hasn't settled on pricing.

Apple wants the headset to have its own App Store "with a focus on gaming and the ability to stream video content, while also serving as a sort of super-high-tech communications device for virtual meetings." Siri will control the headset, although it is also reportedly being tested with a physical remote.

The N301 headset appears to be only one of Apple's ongoing AR/VR projects. The other is said to be a pair of AR glasses codenamed N421, with current prototypes said to resemble high-priced sunglasses with "thick frames that house the battery and chips." Ive, who left Apple last year after almost three decades at the company, is said to have preferred the concept of the N421 glasses.

Apple's augmented reality headset is expected to be released in 2022 followed by the sleeker pair of augmented reality glasses coming in 2023. You can read the full Bloomberg report here, and for everything we know on Apple's AR/VR plans, be sure to check our dedicated roundup.

Article Link: Bloomberg: Apple's AR/VR Gaming Headset Plans Altered By Internal Divisions
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macrumors 601
Feb 22, 2020
I agree with Ive on this. Requiring a wearable to be tethered (albeit wirelessly) to a hub is just silly for a consumer product. That simply means the tech available is not ready yet.

The tethered to a hub version only make sense for a specific niche applications. Eg. Game arcades where they have a fixed room for the devices. Or a lab or hospital with fixed rooms. But Apple probably wanted this for consumers.


macrumors 68000
Sep 29, 2008
While the idea of a more powerful headset is great, Ive’s approach will have broader appeal. The bulk and awkwardness of VR headsets keep many people from using them. If Apple can make them sleek but still reasonably powerful, it will go a long way towards improving adoption of VR.


macrumors 65816
Dec 8, 2011
I can see making a VR/AR headset slimmer would be smart, but I don’t see why it would have to exclude a controller box. If the tech isn’t there to mount it all in the headset, and a controller box would solve this... what’s the problem?

I wonder how much tech was compromised by Ive in other areas. MacBooks, Mac Pro... What might change now that he’s gone? Will we eventually get a power-user’s desktop machine that sits between the thermally-compromised all-in-ones and the Mac Plutocrat?


macrumors 604
Mar 7, 2007
Midwest America.
It looks like a SCUBA mask. If that's the 'big' version, it's too big. But why can't they solve that problem. Making a smaller product with crappy graphics will be a deal breaker for many.
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macrumors 68000
Jun 5, 2013
Although the headset now in development is less technologically ambitious than originally intended, it's pretty advanced. It's designed to feature ultra-high-resolution screens that will make it almost impossible for a user to differentiate the virtual world from the real one.

Calling total, utter bulls#$t on this.

Apple CEO Tim Cook ultimately sided with Ive, who didn't want Apple promoting technology that would take people out of the real world.

When you are sitting on a pile of wealth so obscenely large it would make Smaug feel awkward, yeah damn right you don't want to be taken out of your "real" world.
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macrumors 604
Mar 7, 2007
Midwest America.
The hub will be sold separately starting at only 1,999$ as a add on for Pro generation 2.

With locking wheels.

They make it sound like the unattached unit will be in a cart the user tows around with them. Is it the size of a Mac Mini? They could end up making fanny packs fashionable again. 🤦‍♀️


macrumors G3
Feb 23, 2010
Dear Jony, please go away, you have ruined so many Apple products by making them worse performing actual products just so you think they look nicer.
Go away, stay away and shut the F up.

I'd be more than happy with an additional computer unit, say that was attached to your belt or something if it means the headset can be lighter, and perhaps the compute unit can be boosted in time without needing to replace the headset part as well.


macrumors 68000
Oct 12, 2010
The N301 to seems like something that would sell really well. There are so many possibilities for the masses in entertainment, education and for idustry.

The other more casual looking version we’ve been hearing about to sounds like the biggest bomb Apple would have ever put to market. It just begs mockery derision in it’s stupidity and uselessness. It may appeal to tech enthusiasts, but it screams bomb. Though Apple has the money to lose.
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macrumors 65816
Oct 4, 2008
I'm totally against Cook and Ive on this one. This discussion seems to be about a VR headset - I don't see the issue with having a box that communicates wirelessly with the headset - it's not like you are going to be leaving the room while using it and it they could get the size down to that of an 802.11ac AEBS it wouldn't be too bulk to move between locations.

Now an AR headset on the other hand is another matter and can't operate with a separate box (unless that box is your iPhone)...


macrumors regular
Jan 14, 2009
Devon, UK.
They've both got a point. It doesn't sound like Mike Rockwell was following the Apple design philosophy at all. And yet if Rockwell's design could blow the competition out of the water, the 99% of consumers that will be using this in a living room or bedroom aren't going to care that it comes with an extra box of tricks. No wonder the standoff lasted so long.


Jul 18, 2011
Makes sense.

Apple is a design-led company, with Apple designers calling the shots, and searching for and having technology made to serve the product experience, not engineers excited about about new hot tech and trying to turn it into a product.

Any AR / VR product by Apple shouldn’t be about being the most powerful, but about making technology more personal and intimate.

Apple probably made the right call in the long run.


macrumors 68000
Jan 14, 2013
So this thing is different than the supposed Apple Glasses right? These virtual reality goggles are for indoor home use only? Than in that case, does it really matter if it’s tethered by blue tooth to a separate unit? Why not just make it tethered to your iphone or ipad? Wouldn’t they be powerful enough to run it? But as far as bulkiness or size, I don’t think that is as important for a home device. Although knowing Apple, they want to make it as sleek as possible.

The wearable Apple glasses however are a different beast. I would imagine the goal there is to make them as fashionable as can be. Much like the Apple Watch.
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macrumors 604
Dec 7, 2007
The Adirondacks.
The tension must have been palatable. Would have loved to be in that final meeting with Cook as a fly on a wall. Interesting that Rockwell stayed on after the dressing down. Unusual for an Apple Lead in this type of situation. With Ives finally out the door , I'll wager he will still be working on his original concept as a secondary project.
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