avatarAaron Dinin, PhD


Dear Entrepreneurs: Don’t Forget that Apple’s Vision Pro Is Creating Enormous Opportunities

Sure, the Vision Pro will be a cool piece of technology, but stay focused on the bigger picture.

Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash

I was speaking with a colleague at my university who happens to be one of the world’s leading academic experts on VR/AR. She’s literally spent the bulk of her distinguished career developing technologies related to headsets.

Naturally, I asked her if she was ready for the big launch of the Vision Pro. “My lab has pre-ordered a couple,” she said with a shrug. “We’ll see how they are and if they’re worth the price.”

I was surprised by how disinterested she seemed. “But it’s Apple’s headset,” I insisted, “This is huge for you, right? It’s a one-in-a-lifetime type of thing. Isn’t this basically the biggest moment in your career?”

“Not at all,” she responded, clearly surprised by my enthusiam. “We’ve been using headsets for a long time. There are already some very good ones on the market and for only a fraction of the cost. I’ve not heard that there’s going to be anything truly revolutionary in Apple’s headset, but I’ll certainly try it out.”

In that moment, I realized she and I were understanding Apple completely differently. She was viewing Apple as a technology company, which is how most people understand Apple. But that’s wrong. If you want to appreciate Apple, stop thinking about it as a technology company and start thinking about it as a giant entrepreneurial opportunity.

Apple the market maker

To clarify, the once-in-a-lifetime thing I was referring to with my colleague in relation to the new Vision Pro wasn’t the headset itself. It’s Apple launching a headset in her industry.

While most consumers think of Apple as a technology company, for Apple itself, the technologies the company develops aren’t really what matters. Yes, Apple creates high quality technology products, but, in the business world, Apple is what’s known as a “market maker.” It has a long history of going into established but nascent markets and turning them into enormous industries.

For example, lots of consumers associate MP3s with the iPod, but the MP3 music format was invented in 1987, and the first portable MP3 players were released around a decade later, which was years before Apple launched its iPod in 2001. In other words, Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player. MP3 players were already well-established, but they were niche products.

That all changed when Apple released the iPod. Within a few months Apple had turned the tiny portable music player market into one of the biggest and most lucrative markets in the world while simultaneously changing the way the world listened to music.

Six years later, Apple would do the same thing to the smartphone industry. Smartphones existed before the iPhone. I actually remember reading about the iPhone launch on my smartphone because I was an #EarlyAdopter (a.k.a. tech nerd). But the smartphone market was tiny.

Then came Apple and its iPhone, and, well… there’s a good chance you’re reading this article on a smartphone.

Apple did the same thing again with tablets. Again, as a tech nerd, I had a tablet computer when I was in college in the early 2000s, and all my friends made fun of me for it. By 2010, Apple was releasing the iPad and making tablets as common as televisions.

Smartwatches began appearing in the mid 1990s, but the Apple Watch didn’t exist until 2015, and now I bet your grandma is wearing one.

Bluetooth headsets first began appearing in 2004, but they didn’t become common until Apple released its AirPods in 2016.

Do you see the pattern? Apple doesn’t create technology revolutions. It creates market revolutions. That’s why it’s not a technology company, and its most valuable assets aren’t its products. Apple is a market maker, and its most valuable assets are the millions and millions of devoted Apple fans who will buy whatever products it creates.

The opportunities around Apple’s newest launch

On its surface, the headset industry seems to match the pattern above. The technologies for headsets have been around for a loooooong time (I remember playing with VR headsets when I was 12-years-old, and that was before some of you reading this were even born), but the headset market is still a niche market of mostly early adopters. What happens if the new Vision Pro does to the headset industry the same thing Apple did with MP3 players, phones, tablets, and all those other industries?

From an entrepreneurial perspective, that’s the important question. Heck, that’s why I was so surprised my colleague wasn’t more emotional about the upcoming launch. It’s not oftent that Apple adds millions of users and billions of dollars to an industry, but it was literally days away from happening to her industry. I knew if I was in her position, I’d be on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens. Are we about to enter the age of the headset?

But, truth be told, you don’t have to be in her position to get excited. In reality, the Vision Pro launch is a huge entrepreneurial opportunity for any aspiring founders. To understand why, think back to the iPhone’s launch in 2007. At the time, few people would have envisioned app stores and mobile gaming and high resolution cameras in everyone’s pockets, but now they represent enormous industries worth billions of dollars, and they largely exist because of the iPhone.

Imagine what will happen if the Vision Pro has even a fraction of that kind of impact on the computing market. More specifically, imagine all the potential entrepreneurial opportunities.

What kinds of apps will this new device need? Early app developers for the Vision Pro might have the same kinds of massive user acquisition opportunities that the first iPhone app store offered its early adopters.

What kinds of unexpected services will the Vision Pro be able to provide? Will we use it to travel? Will we use it to hang out with friends on the other side of the country? Will we use it to learn or research or operate on patients? I obviously don’t know, but I know startups are going to have to be created in order too help people fully maximize the power of their new headsets. Could one such startup be yours?

And what kinds of new infrastructure will need to be built to help support this new device? For example, your smartphone is probably wrapped in a case made by a company other than Apple. Will Vision Pros need cases, too? Or backpacks? Or screen protectors? Those are all things entrepreneurs had to create for iPhones, and the pattern is surely going to repeat itself for the new Vision Pro.

Obviously, I could take these examples much further, but you surely get the point by now. Simply put, from a business perspective the Vision Pro as a piece of technology doesn’t matter nearly as much as all the entrepreneurial opportunities it’s going to enable. Are you ready to capture those? After all, it’s not every day that Apple — the world’s largest company — creates an entirely new market.

Want more lessons about startups and entrepreneurship? Take a (FREE) mini-course with me right now!

Apple Vision Pro
Recommended from ReadMedium