Finally, a New Apple Device Really Worth Talking About

By now, we all know the routine: An early start. A line down the street. Apple Inc. store employees whooping and hollering with such coordination it must make Kim Jong Un envious.

Those at the front of the queue seem like shills — set up by Apple and primed to talk to the media. But then, such is the loyalty to this company, it’s just as likely they’re happy to repeat the spiel of their own free will. And then the media, corralled in a little pen, arguably (and probably) doing Apple’s marketing for them.

Oh, yes, we’ve been here before. How fitting that today — Feb. 2 — is Groundhog Day. I guess we should be grateful at least that this isn’t just another new black rectangle for your hands or wrist. Apple is now on your face with its Vision Pro headset.

But here’s the thing: Look away at your peril. It may no longer be the most valuable corporation in America, but no single company holds as much sway over our habits as Apple. What it does next is important — and this kind of morning, at the company’s stunning store on New York’s Fifth Avenue, may well prove to be yet another turning point in how we interact with technology and one another.

It may also provide Apple with some much needed oomph as its legacy businesses face headwinds that show no signs of going away easily, if at all. That may have been on Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s mind as he bounded out of the store’s doors to welcome in the first customers. What greeted him wasn’t a new-iPhone-esque line, snaking around the block and littered with the remnants of an overnight camping stay. No, this was more like turning up for a doctor’s appointment — a 20-minute session and you’re out of there, $3,500 lighter.

How many people will do this? Apple hasn’t provided guidance; analysts give estimates in the realm of 600,000 or so for the first year. Cook is not, in contrast to how Steve Jobs pondered the first iPhone, seeking to convince every person with a head and two eyeballs that this is something they need today. The company would never describe it as such, but this is the most public experiment Apple has ever conducted. Its reputation for quality means those in line acknowledged — perhaps relished — their guinea pig status.