GeekNights Monday - The Line of Technology Adoption

Tonight on GeekNights, we briefly consider when and why to adopt a new technology. In the news, Apple WWDC 2023 brings a $3,500 AR/VR headset in 2024 (we've talked about AR (Augmented Reality) before), and Reddit is pulling a Twitter and possibly destroying the best third party app it has.

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Dynamic watch face that’s a Calvin and Hobbes sled ride.

Here’s something I wrote in 2015 about jumping in early on a new apple product…

(TLDR: wait until the third version to have a magical experience, buy the first version for a decent but not-quite-life-changing-yet product that you will replace after two years)

Apple Watch – Not normally an early adopter

I think I’ve learned good lessons from my first ever try at being an early adopter.

I bought an iPod Nano, years after the first iPod came out, and after years of using non-Apple mp3 players. It was magic! I thought “I wish I’d bought this three years ago!”

I bought a MacBook to use as a travel computer.I never touched my home PC again, and the MacBook became my only computer. It was just better in every way than any other laptop or PC I’d owned before. I thought “I wish I’d bought this three years ago!”

I bought an iPhone 3GS. It was my first smart phone, though I’d owned an iPod Touch for a while. It was amazing! GPS, maps, a decent camera, apps! I thought “I wish I’d bought an iPhone when they first came out!”

I bought an iPad Mini Retina when they first came out. It changed my life in terms of reading and video watching. It’s like the perfect device for media consumption. I thought “I wish I’d bought this years ago!”

This year, when the Apple Watch came out, I waited a few months, then bought one. My plan was to avoid the “I wish I’d bought this three years ago” moment, and the regret that my life could have been slightly better for those three years if only I’d bought the first version.

The Apple Watch is really cool, and I enjoy wearing it, and a lot of the features are both a lot of fun and really useful.

But I’m missing the “Wow! Magical! Life changing!” moment I had when I started using the iPod, MacBook, iPhone and iPad Mini. And the reason is simple: I skipped the first versions of all those things.

When I thought “I wish I’d bought this three years ago”, the “this” I had just bought didn’t exist three years previously. The iPod Nano was amazing because it was so small and sleek. Three years previously iPods had spinning hard drives and were six times the size.

Three years before my MacBook was released, the Apple laptops were called iBooks, only ran OSX Tiger, and OS updates cost $129 each.

I loved my iPhone 3GS, in part, because of the 3G and the S… S standing for speed. You know, the 3G and the speed that the original iPhone didn’t have. And it didn’t have GPS or a camera, no apps, or even cut and paste. So it would have been impossible to have the 3GS years previously, as it simply didn’t exist.

Same with the iPad Mini Retina. In this case, I specifically waited until the Mini had a Retina screen, as I knew that would be my perfect size and resolution. And it was. What has remained my favourite device just wasn’t available before I bought it.

It’s not just Apple devices either. My Canon 60D is the best camera for my use cases ever. All the features I love simply didn’t exist together in a single camera before it was released. I got a GoPro Hero 3. Amazing little camera! I wished I could have bought it years before. But it didn’t exist years before.

Which brings me back to the Apple Watch again. I don’t regret buying it at all, but I do regret not having the immediate magical introduction. It’s merely a good gadget.

In two or three years time the new version will have better apps, more speed, better connectivity, native GPS, more sensors, custom watch faces, custom complications, better uses for the buttons, different navigation, etc. In two or three years, someone will buy the watch for the first time and have the magical introduction, and it will immediately impact their life. But not me. I’ll get some of the improvements along the way.

Stuff that costs $3500 - your house this month?

Reddit is undergoing what Cory Doctorow calls enshittification:

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

There is a forum software written in assembly:

My mountain bike cost roughly €3,500.

My 2010 MacBook Pro cost about €3,200 and my 2016 MacBook Pro cost about €3,600.

The camera I bought in 2010 plus the lenses cost about €3,000.

My next big purchase is another MacBook Pro, because my current (2016) laptop isn’t able to run the OS update from 2022 let alone 2023, and it can’t edit the 4K HDR video that my iPhone can capture. I expect it to cost about €3,000.

Accurate, but I only pay half.

I looked it up. My all carbon road bike cost me $2,669.41 in 2016. It was a bigger discount than I remembered.

If you add up all the camera stuff combined, ok, way over $3500. But the most expensive camera I use most was $1700. Most of the lenses I have were just a few hundred.

One notable exception is the big big zoom lens. Apparently I paid $1800 for it when they launched it. They sell it for $1300 now. I do use it, but honestly not enough to justify the price. Regrets! Mistakes were made.

The lens I use most was $850, and nowadays goes for $700. That was the opposite of regrets. Incredible investment.

My rent is more than that…

You could build a really great PC for 2500 and then buy the Valve Index Full version for 1k. (headset, their extremely cool finger movement controllers, and 2 base stations).

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Actual feedback about the apple thing from a guy that had the demo.

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Or, you could get the quest 3 with money left over - looking at it, it does 99% of the things the Vision pro does just as well, for a fraction of the cost, and without some of the features that aren’t really as useful, like the reverse passthrough so people can see your face.

I can’t help but think that all comparisons between the meta devices and the Vision Pro along the lines of “they do the same thing” are very analogous to everyone who saw the iPhone announcement and said “my feature phone can do all those things, and it has a physical keyboard”.

This is backed up by people who have used the meta devices extensively and have now tried the Vision Pro headset. It seems like they are the same kind of thing, but feel completely different.

For example, CGP Grey and Myke did a whole fascinating podcast episode a few months ago about using the Meta Quest Pro for work meetings:

And now Myke got to try the Vision Pro, and the comparisons have very “iPhone vs the feature phones” vibes:

(Just noticed this was shared a few posts ago)

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How could they have tried an upgraded headset that nobody has access to yet, and doesn’t release for at least three months, if not more?

At this point, all we have to compare are what we know on paper. I’m perfectly willing to change my mind - and possibly will, I couldn’t say yet considering - when myself or at least far more people than selected reviewers and influencers have had the chance to check them both out. I’d like to either get hands on, or hear from regular people, not have to waste calories trying to sort level-headed reviewers, from haters, from apple fanboys who’ll slobber over it because it’s their brand, from the people who are just jazzed about all things vr and give most headsets glowing reviews.

That said - those people were mistaken, because the iphone was a genuine revolution in the space. This isn’t, or at least, doesn’t seem to be. It’s a VR headset(Albeit one trying very hard to differentiate itself by leaning into the XR space) with a pretty normal feature set - if a few impressive standouts in specs(IIRC, that’s the most powerful VR headset , but still, nothing hugely revolutionary. Maybe apple has something up their sleeves yet, but from what we know right now, this appears not to be Iphone Vs Feature phone, but more like Iphone vs extremely similar android flagship phone at best. It’s not revolutionary just because it’s got an apple logo on.

That said, the proof is in the pudding. If anything, I look forward to being wrong, because I think that would be FAR more interesting than another competent but ultimately unremarkable(barring the price) entry into the space.

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They have extensively used the Meta Quest Pro, which became their baseline for comparison for the Vision Pro.

The hypothetical Meta Quest 3 that you think will be released in three months doesn’t exist yet, and Mark Zuckerberg only said he will make another announcement in three months.

I thought it was totally cringeworthy when Zuckerberg made the pre-announcement-announcement of the Quest 3 just five days before the Apple unveiling of the Vision Pro, but it turns out to have worked perfectly.

Now instead of comparing the Vision Pro to Meta’s current devices in terms of capabilities and price, everyone (including you) wants to now compare the Vision Pro to a future device from Meta that nobody has ever used, and probably doesn’t even have a final design or spec sheet yet, as now Meta can start designing it in response to Apple’s efforts.

Personally I’m super excited about new tech like this, and not because it has an Apple label on it, but because Apple has access to tech that no other company can match, like a dedicated real-time sensor and video processor to keep all latency under 12 milliseconds. What other headset has that?

Feel free to ignore all the new technology in the Vision Pro though.

It was shown off and given a release date and price on the first of this month, and review units have been in the hands of various folks for a week or two now(though admittedly that last part is what I’m told secondhand, I don’t have any insider knowledge from meta or anything.)

It has literal production units in reviewer hands right now. In fact, it’s fairly certain more people outside of meta have used that headset than folks outside of apple have used the headset you seem to be demanding I hail as revolutionary.

First up, to be clear - I didn’t mean to target that at you, I apologize if it felt that way. I sometimes lose track of where I’m going when I’m tossing in a flourish or two, it’s a bad habit of mine when I’m writing informally, and I need to work on that. I was absolutely thinking of some youtube reviewers I watch occasionally who can definitely get caught up in the apple hype machine, more than anyone else.

That said - Mate, you have a bad habit of really talking down to people when you disagree with them. While I don’t mean to speak for anyone else, at least from my perspective, It’s pretty uncomfortable to watch, even on the occasions where it’s not directed at me. I get it on this occasion - reading back, I can see a few spots where what I said could come across as targeted or insulting, which regardless of if I intended it or not, sucks and I need to get better at it, I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same, y’all have seen me get arch many times before. And more specifically, I’ve done it to you too, I know I ain’t perfect on that.

But still, regardless of how I’ve been a prick in the past(including the recent past, even if unintentional), did it really seem more likely that I’d just hallucinated an entire headset and release date out of mid-air as a more likely option than that you’d just missed an announcement?

Second up: Yeah, I am pretty excited about these things, I’m just more cautious, being a regular user of this type of technology, both recreationally and professionally.
So, focusing on some of the positives: 4k Micro-Oleds for each eye? Not new tech, but that’s an incredible jump in visual fidelity. Using LIDAR in the way they are is smart, and might improve the overall fidelity of room tracking and the like - it’s already pretty good, but there’s a lot of room for improvement, and that might be it. And I look forward to seeing what improvements Apple can make on the comfort front - after all, user experience is one of their big focuses, and many headsets struggle with comfort, particularly in long sessions. Putting the battery outside the unit is kind of a brave move - a little retro, considering, but if the market accepts it, it might open up a lot of options in the space for form factor, since manufacturers can be gun-shy on that sort of big change.

Quest Pro, while it varies a little, is pretty solidly sub-12, though can go as high as 12ms when pushed. Quest 3 is allegedly marginally better again, but I’m taking that with a grain of salt, because I’ve not seen the unit, nor seen any independent measurement yet.

Dude, I’m just not going to continue this. I don’t have to take that shit, and we both know it. You’re better than that.


Okay, I didn’t mean to be dismissive or defensive. Sorry.

I saw the Meta Quest 3 announcements and also saw things like “next generation chip but not sure what chip” and “better resolution but they aren’t saying the actual resolution”, so that’s what I’m getting at with the hypotheticals.

I know Mark Gurman at Bloomberg had a hands on session he wrote about, but if you have some video recommendations of other people with hands on experience with it I’d love to see it because so far I’ve not seen any and my earlier googling only found people covering the same details, but no footage of the actual device.

Honestly, I’d love to know more about it and who has production units.