Vision Pro apps may need kick-starting by Apple

Technically, there won’t be any shortage of Vision Pro apps at launch, given that existing iPad apps will run on the platform. But that’s much like arguing that there was no shortage of iPad apps when the device was launched, because iPhone apps ran on the tablet.

Porting apps to Apple’s spatial computer in a way that takes full advantage of the very different environment of Vision Pro takes work – and early signs aren’t looking good …

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman notes that most developers are currently reluctant to put in the work given the likely small market for Vision Pro apps.

Let’s say Apple sells about 500,000 Vision Pro units annually during its first few years on the market. That’s a tiny fraction of the 250 million units combined for the iPhone, iPad and Mac. At that level, the addressable market for the Vision Pro is 500 times smaller than for Apple’s other devices — and that’s potentially a major roadblock to developers investing in the product.

I’ve spoken to a slew of high-profile developers in the virtual reality space, and that reason alone has them wary of building an app for the Vision Pro. They also say that the lack of VR controller support means that content and games found on other VR platforms won’t be able to easily make the jump.

Part of the issue is the history of the Apple Watch. At the time the device was launched, not even Apple knew how people would use it, initially placing greater emphasis on notifications rather than what would turn out to be the primary appeal of the wearable: health and fitness.

Quite a few developers did put in the work to create Apple Watch apps, but relatively few of them saw significant success on the platform – and many Watch apps have long since been abandoned. The memory of that likely still stings for many.

Vision Pro is in a similar position. Nobody yet knows how people will use it, and what might turn out to be its primary appeal – so creating apps for it is a gamble. And given the huge price disparity between the Watch and the headset, it’s a gamble for a much smaller potential market.

Widgetsmith developer David Smith recently gave some insight into the amount of work needed, and the likely trial-and-error nature of the process.

Even where there is a very obvious appeal – such as watching streaming video in the immersive environment of the headset – developers still seem wary. Gurman says that even Netflix seems content to take the unmodified iPad app approach initially.

The biggest streamer of all, Netflix, will take a pass. I’m told that the company has no current plans to develop a native app for the Vision Pro. Of course, Netflix will still let its iPad app run on the headset unmodified.

That’s not a great sign, given that any new hardware platform depends on apps to make it appealing to potential buyers.

Adoption is already going to be painfully slow, given both the high price of the device and tight constraints on production volumes. Having a lack of appealing apps as a further barrier to adoption isn’t exactly going to help.

One unnamed high-profile developer Gurman spoke to suggested that Apple may even have to pay them to develop native Vision Pro apps. In other words, cover the cost of the developer time needed to create a version of some high-profile apps that really shows off the capabilities of the hardware.

I do think this is something Apple should consider: a relatively small investment now to not only boost the appeal of the device, but also demonstrate Apple’s confidence in the future of the platform.

What’s your view? Should Apple incentivize developers to create great Vision Pro apps to help kick-start the platform? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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