❤ xrOS for AR/VR headset takes priority over iOS 17 features, augmented reality Apple Store experience coming soon



Mark Gurman reports that Apple has prioritized development of the operating system for its upcoming AR/VR headset, which is expected to be named ‘xrOS’. This means Apple has diverted engineering resources away from work on features for iOS 17 and macOS 14, in order to get the headset software over the line in time for a planned product launch later this year.

As a result, Gurman says that iOS 17, iPadOS 17 and macOS 14 may have fewer major new features than originally planned. Separately, work on new augmented reality features for the Apple Store app are apparently almost ready for release.

The augmented reality features would activate when a user enters a physical Apple Store. Through the Apple Store app on their phone, users would point at a product in the retail store — like an Apple Watch band, for instance — to see more information about it appear overlaid in the augmented reality view.

This kind of AR-enhanced shopping experience may be the sort of thing Apple has in mind for the headset, too.

Gurman reports that Apple has been working on the AR shopping features since 2020, and has been testing it at stores more recently. This suggests the feature may be officially unveiled soon.

Don’t get too excited just yet for iOS 17

We don’t really know yet what to expect from the next generation of Apple OS releases, but Gurman’s report today indicates that they may not represent huge leaps in terms of new features:

Apple’s focus on the xrOS operating system — along with iOS 16 snags — has also cost it some new features in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, the next major iPhone and iPad software updates. That software, codenamed Dawn, may have fewer major changes than originally planned. The same goes for macOS 14, which is codenamed Sunburst. 

Apple typically announces its new operating systems at WWDC in June. The company then releases beta versions for developers to test over the summer, with a public launch set for the fall alongside the new iPhone 15 launch. No doubt, we’ll hear more about what to expect in the coming months.

Apple Inc., after seven years of development, is nearly ready to launch its first mixed-reality headset. But the focus on this new product will lead to an otherwise muted 2023.

First wrote in 2017 about Apple’s ambition to launch a high-performance AR-based headset — complete with its own operating system, App Store and dedicated chips. Back then, Apple had aimed to get it to market by 2019. Over time, the delays stacked up. Apple had plans to launch the device in 2020, then 2021 and then 2022.

The final postponement, at least for the moment, happened last year. Up until fairly recently, Apple had aimed to introduce the headset in January 2023 and ship it later this year. Now the company is aiming to unveil it this spring ahead of the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, I’m told.

Apple has already shared the device with a small number of high-profile software developers for testing, letting them get started on third-party apps. The device’s operating system, dubbed “Borealis” inside the company, will be publicly named xrOS.

With the current plan, Apple could introduce the device to consumers — likely under the name Reality Pro — and then get developers up to speed on its software features in June. On this timeline, the company would then ship the product later in the fall of 2023.

While Apple still has many kinks to work out with the device —involving hardware, software and services, as well as how it will be marketed and sold — the company is banking on the product as its hot new introduction for this year.

To make that happen, Apple roped in resources from several hardware and software engineering departments. That’s hampered other projects, some of which were already suffering from their own delays and budget cuts stemming from the economic slowdown. And it could mean Apple has fewer major breakthroughs to show off this year.

Here’s what to expect, starting with the Mac lineup:

  • The new MacBook Pros, coming in the first half of this year, will have the same designs and features as the current 14-inch and 16-inch models, but include M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. Those are marginal leaps from today’s MacBook Pro processors.
  • A high-end configuration of the Mac Pro, a model with 48 CPU cores and 152 graphics cores, has been canceled. Instead, Apple plans to release a version with the M2 Ultra, making it unclear — beyond the machine’s expandability — why most users would buy it over the cheaper and smaller Mac Studio. In another disappointment, the new Mac Pro will look identical to the 2019 model. It will also lack one key feature from the Intel version: user-upgradeable RAM. That’s because the memory is tied directly to the M2 Ultra’s motherboard. Still, there are two SSD storage slots and for graphics, media and networking cards.
  • A larger iMac Pro, meanwhile, has been on and off Apple’s road map, and I would be surprised at this point if it arrives in 2023. A spec-bump upgrade for the 24-inch iMac won’t arrive until the M3 chip is ready, which likely won’t happen until late 2023 or 2024 at the earliest.
  • If there’s any major saving grace for the Mac lineup in 2023, it’s a planned 15-inch MacBook Air. A new 12-inch MacBook is no longer on Apple’s near-term road map however.

As for the iPad, I don’t expect any major updates in 2023:

  • Apple has been working on larger iPads, but I’m told not to expect those this year.
  • Updates to the 11-inch and 13-inch iPad Pros won’t come until the first half of 2024, I’m told. These will likely include a new design and they’re set to include OLED displays, a first for an iPad.
  • Any updates to the iPad mini, iPad Air and entry-level iPad this year won’t be anything more than a spec bump — if they arrive at all.

The Apple Watch and other accessories will be a similar story:

  • I wouldn’t anticipate major changes to the Apple Watch’s hardware this year, save for some minor performance boosts.
  • The AirPods probably won’t get any updates of note in 2023 either.
  • The return of the larger HomePod size is still set for this year, but I wouldn’t expect anything revolutionary about it. Look for a lower price, an updated touch control panel on the top and the S8 chip from the latest Apple Watches in a design similar to the model from 2018.
  • There are no plans for a new Apple TV to launch in 2023.

Apple’s focus on the xrOS operating system — along with iOS 16 snags — has also cost it some new features in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, the next major iPhone and iPad software updates. That software, codenamed Dawn, may have fewer major changes than originally planned. The same goes for macOS 14, which is codenamed Sunburst.

The new iPhone’s hardware, though, could still be impressive. I’m told to expect the same screen sizes as the iPhone 14 family, but the Dynamic Island will expand to all four models. A titanium frame replaces stainless steel on the Pro models, and there will be haptic volume buttons. The phone also will switch to USB-C and faster