Zach LeBar

Personal ramblings on a wide array of topics. "But, you know,
I could be wrong."

What If Apple's AR Play is macOS?

Here’s a crazy theory: what if Apple’s big AR play, is macOS-focused?

We know that Tim Cook has repeatedly talked about how AR is an interest of Apple’s. On analyst calls they often deflect attention from questions about VR towards AR. Up ‘til now, most have assumed this is because Apple is more interested in iOS-based applications of these technologies, and that they’re looking to differentiate themselves from their Android-based competitors who are already offering VR options. There have even been rumors from as recently as CES 2017 that talk about Carl Zeiss partnering with Apple on a set of AR glasses. The pundits are assuming it’s iPhone-related. But Scoble’s report doesn’t say one way or the other.

What if we’re all looking in the wrong direction? What if we’re blinded by iOS and missing what a tremendous play AR for macOS could be?

If AR is the future of macOS, that would explain a few things…

No More Apple Displays…

First off, why Apple has left the display business. If they’re working on the thing that will ultimately render displays obsolete, why bother innovating? It’d make a lot more sense to advise a third-party so there’s a quality option available, and to instead use your resources elsewhere.

No Touch Support in macOS…

It could also explain the lack of touch support in macOS. A lot of pro users have been asking for this for years now, and with the introduction of the Surface Studio, they’re starting to consider jumping the fence and using Windows. What if Apple has decided to leapfrog touchscreens as an input method for a window-based OS, and head straight for AR? I think AR is a more interesting and natural evolution of the traditional mouse-and-keyboard UI paradigm, and could introduce all sorts of interesting new options and approaches, especially for complex pro-app UIs. It would suddenly make everything Microsoft is doing with their “unified OS” strategy look boring and old-fashioned. Apple loves to pull that move.

You know what else, I think the TouchBar gets a lot more interesting if it moves to the Magic Keyboard and gets paired with an AR interface. That setup would look fantastically futuristic and yet be practical and usable.

A Potential Renaissance

Now, I’ll admit, I don’t know what the technical obstacles are when it comes to bringing a true and proper AR experience to macOS. I’m sure it’s a difficult process, and would require a tremendous amount of work. I’m not even sure if it’s possible, from a hardware or software standpoint.

If Apple could pull it off, I think you’d see a real renaissance in macOS. Suddenly the Mac shines as this bastion of innovation, a high-tech tool for professional use. A system that fires the imagination, that makes people want to use it and makes developers want to write apps for it.

The space between Apple’s two platforms would expand again, in a good way. iOS can continue to mature and become the replacement for PCs we’re all expecting. MacOS then gets the honor of moving even farther forward, pioneering new computing paradigms that we’ll use and refine for the next decade.

I don’t know about you, but that would certainly get me excited about the Mac again.