Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on during an Apple event at their headquarters in Cupertino, California on September 7, 2022.

Carlos Barria | Reuters

Apple’s headset project suffered from CEO Tim Cook’s “distanced” approach and at times lacked the trust of key company executives, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

The augmented reality headset has been in the works for years but has reportedly been stymied by Cook’s “relative non-involvement,” Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the project. The headset project has cost over $1 billion annually and changed direction significantly since work began.

related investment news

A longtime Tesla bear sees more trouble ahead for the electric car maker after the annual meeting


Cook’s relatively hands-on approach to a marquee project stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, Apple’s late founder Steve Jobs. Jobs was known for his obsessive focus on even the smallest details of a project, and worked closely with his chief design officer, Jony Ive.

Cook’s approach is completely different. “He’s the exact opposite of Steve in terms of having strong opinions about the details,” a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. Cook is not alone in keeping his distance, Bloomberg reported.

Top executives including Apple software chief Craig Federighi and hardware chief Johny Srouji have both expressed concern about the project, Bloomberg reported. Federighi appeared “cautious” and kept his distance, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter, and Srouji compared the headset venture to a “science project.”

But management issues may not weigh as heavily on project success as consumer responses. Apple made the decision to sell the headset product at cost as opposed to a loss, as it originally planned to do, Bloomberg reported.

Apple has reportedly revised sales estimates from 3 million per year to 900,000 per year, as the company revised the headset’s form factor and usability.

Bloomberg reported that Ive, who left Apple in 2019 but remained involved in headset development until “about a year ago,” clashed with Mike Rockwell, the executive tasked with exploring “head-worn devices.”

I’ve reportedly been pushing for a “maximally portable device,” close to how Cook envisioned the device. Rockwell’s team initially wanted a device that would rely on a base station the size of a Mac mini, an approach that other augmented and virtual reality manufacturers have shied away from.

Standalone glasses are now at least four years away after Apple decided to postpone any major product development in that arena, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

An open question, and potentially the most important question, is how consumers will use it. Meta’s Oculus has struggled with some barriers to adoption despite the company’s one-time bet-the-house approach to virtual reality; Magic Leap, another augmented reality company, has scaled back its vision significantly.