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Vision Pro’s killer feature? It’s a wearable Mac

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It’s really important to remember that the new Vision Pro, unlike other mixed-reality headsets, isn’t limited to entertainment and gaming. Compared to rivals, the device’s killer app is actually productivity.

That is, after all, perhaps why Apple CEO Tim Cook told Vanity Fair he uses Vision Pro for productive tasks. With the first Vision Pro devices arriving on Friday, productivity apps are on the way, too. Apple says 600 apps designed specifically for the platform are already available, with millions more compatible.

Why productivity matters

That’s good news for Apple, of course, as you can’t claim a successful tech product on the absence of great apps to back that argument up.

Think back to the iPhone — or even the Macintosh — and it was the emergence of productivity apps on both platforms that helped them make the leap from consumer bauble to enterprise essential. After all, VisiCalc wasn’t just the first spreadsheet program for personal computers released exclusively for the Apple II, it was also the app that ultimately led to the computing experiences we take for granted today.

We’re seeing this again in Vision Pro, with Microsoft confirming plans to introduce Office apps for visionOS, and Ukraine’s Readdle delivering a powerful new suite of PDF applications for use in Apple’s reality distortion field. This perhaps shows the extent to which people in the business recognize the opportunity to build creative productivity solutions for Apple’s new world of spatial computing.

“Apple Vision Pro is unlocking the imaginations of our worldwide developer community, and we’re inspired by the range of spatial experiences they’ve created for this exciting new platform,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of worldwide developer relations.

Microsoft gets inside your head

Microsoft seems to be embracing Apple’s vision for visionOS. The company has confirmed that several of its apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams will come to the platform on launch. And versions of OneNote and Outlook are on the way.

The applications seem like the existing iPad versions of the same software, but have a few tweaks custom made for the platform, including a ribbon toolbar to access different tools and settings. One exception is Teams, which will support the virtual persona feature Apple introduced in Vision Pro. You’ll also be able to use a little generative AI in visionOS space, as Microsoft Copilot is available to these apps, coming to the App Store now.

Ukraine’s Readdle brings PDF and mail

Readdle is bringing two of its award-winning productivity apps, PDF Expert and Spark Mail — these are spatial versions of the company’s existing iPad apps. If you make a lot of use of PDFs and haven’t yet come across PDF Expert, you really should give it a try — it’s an outstanding PDF editor for Apple devices and now includes the company’s beta AI Chat application.

The Apple App Store Editor’s award-winning Spark Mail is also worth a look, as it does a good job of making email kind of usable again, with a nice user interface and  numerous email management tools. Spark Mail also includes AI Chat.

A dream come true for project managers

Personally, I’m interested to see how powerful project management apps OmniFocus and OmniPlan do on Apple’s new platform; I can’t help but think the infinite canvas in visionOS will be a brilliant space to make sense out of the vast quantity of nested data inside Gantt charts.

Being able to see the entirety of a project in one view will, in itself, be a vast improvement for managers. 

“With tools like OmniPlan, you can plan out scenarios and see how your changes ripple through the rest of the project in real time,” Omni Group CEO Ken Case said in a statement. “Large Gantt charts have been in my life for as long as I can remember. It is no exaggeration that modern tools have revolutionized the process of planning huge projects. Until now, those tools have been constrained by your screen. The infinite canvas provided by Apple Vision Pro is a dream come true for project planners, project managers, and industrial engineers.”

This should have implications in any operational environment; it’s easy to imagine day traders using Vision Pro devices to replace or supplement the triple-display setups so many use to monitor all the data their investment decisions rely on.

Apps without frontiers

Apple today noted numerous other productive apps, including enterprise-grade cloud storage stalwart Box and brainstorming application MindNode. Apple also cited Webex, Zoom, Fantastical, Numerics, JigSpace, Navi, Slack, Todoist, and Notion as apps that are, at the very least, compatible with its new platform.

“This breakthrough technology introduces immersive experiences that fundamentally redefine the way we work by delivering visually stunning interactions without physical limitations,” Aaron Levie, Box’s cofounder and CEO, said in a statement. “From developing the next breakthrough product to reimagining customer experiences, the possibilities are endless.”

Perhaps he’s right, but ultimately the big advantage Apple’s M-powered wearable computer actually has is that it’s a Mac.

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Copyright © 2024 IDG Communications, Inc.

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