Discover more from The Intellectual Investor
Vision Pro is the Vision of the Future / Russia – History Repeats Itself
You can listen to a professional narration of this article below:
In my last letter I discussed Apple’s storytelling. Today I’ll discuss Apple’s new virtual reality headset and add a minor rant about Russia.
While I was watching Apple’s presentation, Meta’s Quest Pro (which I own for research purposes) suddenly started to remind me of Microsoft PCs – made by engineers for engineers, where the Vision Pro is created by humans for humans.
Two features about the product stand out. (I’d like to warn you that these are incomplete, somewhat random thoughts about Apple the company, not $AAPL the stock – they are related but different things.)
First, the Vision Pro is both virtual and augmented reality. It allows you to be totally engrossed in the virtual world (the VR part), but Apple went out of its way to also allow you to interact with the real world – people – while you have the headset on (the AR part). In other words, if I am wearing my headset and my wife comes into the room with a question, my virtual world can interface with the real world – I can see my wife and talk to her as I pause my movie or continue talking to her while working on my wall sized spreadsheet, virtually projected between my couch and coffee table.
Vision Pro is not a see-through device that looks like a ski mask. There is plastic and a lot of electronics standing between you and the outside world. This headset has 12 inward- and outward-looking cameras that capture the movements of your eyes and the world around you. This is the genius of Apple. It added a curved screen that displays your eyes (captured by the internal cameras). This screen makes the device look like a see-through unit. Thus, when your spouse is talking to you, she feels like she is seeing your eyes, though she is looking at the display of your eyes.
The augmentation of the digital and physical worlds is going to change how we interact with the real world. I have read that Apple is working on virtual reality cameras that will be used to film sports. I recently became a basketball fan (just for a few weeks while the Denver Nuggets are in the finals); and I can just imagine watching the game with friends, all of us wearing the Vision Pro, as if we were sitting courtside or, even better, on the court, and still conversing as we drank beer and ate junk food (this is why basketball is only an obsession for three weeks).
Meta’s Quest Pro, which only has VR, no AR, makes this device incredibly antisocial. It cuts you out of this world to the point where you cannot even drink coffee while you watch a movie.
Second, and this point really shows off Apple’s creativity, Meta created cartoonish avatars to let people interact with each other in the metaverse. This avatar works for Mark Zuckerberg, whose haircut already makes him look very android-like. However, Apple took a very different, much more creative route. When you set up the Vision Pro, it asks you to point it toward you, and using its array of cameras, it creates a video image (almost like a hologram) of you. Thus, when you interact with folks inside the virtual, the cameras in the headset are capturing the muscle movements of your face and manipulating your “hologram.”
Finally, the Vision Pro presentation made me appreciate the moat that surrounds Apple’s ecosystem. There is continuity among all Apple devices and applications. You can start writing a message on a MacBook or iMac, continue on an iPad, and finish it on your iPhone – or now on Vision Pro. You’ll be able to bring apps that are running on your MacBook Air to your Vision Pro, except that instead of being constrained by a 13-inch screen, your only size constraint will be your imagination.
Apple comes into this fight with an army of developers who are writing apps for its ecosystem. Also, a lot of apps that work on its other devices will work on Vision Pro. Apple is able to use the custom processors it created for Macs and iPads for Vision Pro. Because of its enormous scale, it can manufacture them cheaper than anyone else on the planet.
For most of us, the price, $3,500, makes this device a nice but questionably affordable product. I am a bit less skeptical. I read somewhere that when the brick phone came out in the 80s it cost $11,000 in today’s money. Now you can buy a phone that is 10,000 times better for $30. Vision Pro will be adopted first by Apple fanatics and maybe by corporations. But I get a very strong feeling that with Vision Pro, Apple has once again showed us what the future looks like, and I don’t see the current version of Meta Quest Pro in that future. (After I wrote this, I learned that Meta has announced a mixed-reality headset, the Quest 3.)
Apple’s Vision Pro is likely to follow a similar path to that of its watch. At first, the watch was only adopted by Apple fanatics; fortunately for Apple, there are plenty of them. It took eight years and a lot of incremental improvements for the Apple Watch to become a mainstream product worth buying.
Over the last two decades, I have given talks on investing, mainly focused on my books, to CFA Societies around the world, from South Africa to New Zealand to Sofia, Bulgaria, and India in January of this year (you can watch that talk here). As a CFA, I love talking to fellow CFAs; we all share a common memory of the pain of three torturous years of preparing for and taking the CFA exam.
A few weeks ago I was asked to speak to the CFA Association of Russia about my most recent book.
Here is my reply:
A year and a half ago, I would have eagerly taken the opportunity to speak to your members, especially since my book Soul in the Game has been translated into Russian. However, today, my heart is breaking as I witness what is happening in Ukraine.
To give a presentation to your members without addressing the atrocities occurring there would be similar to giving a presentation in Berlin in 1942 and not mentioning the millions of people being killed by the Nazis in the Soviet Union.
Unless I can also discuss the horrors of the war, which I am sure you would not want me to do, I cannot bring myself to speak to your members.
Writing this reply made me think about Russia.
My heart is bleeding for the Ukrainian people, but once the war is over, I can see a bright future for Ukraine. I don’t see a bright future for Russia in any outcome of the war. Economically, Russia has weathered this war better than I and most Western observers expected. Natural gas flows to Europe have come to a halt, but Russian oil is still flowing to India and China.
However, it is not the economy that is on my mind as I write this; it is the political system. Politically, Russia is approaching the Stalinist Soviet Union and Rocket Man’s North Korea. Just like in Stalin’s era, neighbors are tattle-taling on neighbors and teachers on students. The punishment for saying anything against the war is a very real prison sentence.
The majority of Russian people are brainwashed, not all of them. I don’t know the number, let’s say 10-20%. But, understand that in a bit more than a year, Russia turned into a fascist nation and what Russia is doing to Ukraine today is not much different than what Nazi Germany did to the Soviet Union just eighty years ago. Russians feel like prisoners in their own country, without a future. People are censoring themselves in kitchen conversations, afraid that their friends or neighbors might report them to the authorities.
I’d like to think that if we hadn’t left Russia in 1991, I would have been in the group that is not brainwashed and understands what Russia is doing. Though, if I am completely honest, I cannot say that with 100% certainty. I don’t think anyone can really know, unless you live in Russia today. What is certain is that, if we were there, my son Jonah would be facing the draft, at risk of being sent to Ukraine to die and to kill people who have done nothing to Russia or to him.
I am not any better than any of those people who support Putin, just luckier.
The stupidity of the situation is, what if Russia were to win the war? Of course, victory is what Putin decides it to be. But, let us say Russia captures 20-30% of Ukraine. How would that make the lives of every Russian better? Just like North Korea, Russia is quickly becoming isolated from the West and turning into a vassal state of China, which has its own agenda.
It is amazing how little we learn from history.
I've stumbled on Eugen D’Albert maybe fifteen years ago or so. I was shocked how good his music was and unknown he was. He is a Scottish-born German composer who was also a pianist (you can still find recording of him playing works of other composers). Similar to Moszkowits he lived in the Rachmaninoff’s era and his music as you’ll hopefully see is Rachmaninoff’s caliber.
Here is his Piano concertos Number 1. D’Albert loved the institution of marriage, he frequented it quite often – he was married six times.
Click here to listen.
While I was looking for links of his piano concertos I stumbled on his cello concerto that I was not aware of.
Thanks for reading The Intellectual Investor! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Vitaliy Katsenelson is the CEO at IMA, a value investing firm in Denver. He has written two books on investing, which were published by John Wiley & Sons and have been translated into eight languages. Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life (Harriman House, 2022) is his first non-investing book. You can get unpublished bonus chapters by forwarding your purchase receipt to email@example.com.
Please read the following important disclosure here.