Apple Vision Pro
Apple Vision Pro Image Credit: Apple

Washington: Apple Inc. faithful lined up at its US stores on Friday to pick up the first Vision Pro headsets, ushering in what the company calls "the era of spatial computing."

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook appeared at Apple's flagship Manhattan store on Fifth Avenue to commemorate the launch, greeting modest crowds. At the company's location at the Grove shopping mall in Los Angeles, clapping Apple employees welcomed in the day's first customers.

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The Vision Pro vaults Apple into its first major new product category since 2015: a $3,499 headset that melds virtual and augmented reality. It's been a relatively niche market until now, with Meta Platforms Inc. dominating the industry. But Apple hopes to use cutting-edge technology "- and the company's famous marketing muscle "- to turn it into something bigger.

"Apple Vision Pro brings together thousands of innovations to create a product that's like nothing the world has ever seen before," Cook said in a memo to staff following the launch. "It's an extraordinary achievement, and as so many of you can attest, it has been years in the making."

The launch was a more subdued affair than the initial rollout of the iPhone and other new devices. When Apple's phone first went on sale in 2007, customers swarmed stores from New York to San Francisco, desperate to get their hands on one. Friday's debut drew a relatively small mix of customers either looking to buy the device or just try it out.

The Vision Pro has a more elaborate sales process than any previous Apple product. It includes 20- to 25-minute product demos that show 3D video and apps in mixed reality. At the company's largest US stores, Apple rolled out circular seating arrangements and carpets to provide testers with a living room feel.

The launch followed a mixed earnings report from Apple late Thursday. Though iPhone sales were better than anticipated last quarter, the company is struggling in China. Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri also signaled that sales in the current quarter won't be as strong as some analysts had estimated.

For now, the Vision Pro won't be a big driver of sales. Its shipments will be measured in the hundreds of thousands this year, compared with hundreds of millions for the iPhone. But it could turn Apple into the biggest player in the mixed-reality market.

Apple sold an estimated 180,000 Vision Pros during the Vision Pro's preorder period, which began in mid-January. At roughly $3,499 a pop, that's well over $600 million in revenue.