Thursday, January 18, 2024

Netflix and the Initial Apple Vision Pro Apps

Joe Rossignol:

Netflix has no plans to release an app for Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro headset, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Instead, the streaming service will be accessible through Safari and other web browsers on the headset.


Apple recently announced various video and sports apps that will be available on the Vision Pro at launch, including Disney+, Discovery+, Max, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, Peacock, ESPN, MLB, NBA, and more. There is also MLS Season Pass in the Apple TV app.

Benjamin Mayo:

The Apple Vision Pro can run more than a million iPhone and iPad apps available in the App Store, in a compatibility mode where the apps appear as mini-windows in the user’s virtual space. However, developers can choose to opt out from this support. With today’s statement, Netflix has confirmed it is opting out, directing customers to access the Netflix website through the Safari web browser.

John Gruber (Mastodon):

Mac users sure do enjoy not being able to download Netflix movies or shows for offline viewing — you know, like in an airplane, one of the most obvious and common places where Vision Pro will be used.

Not having a native VisionOS app is one thing. Apparently having no current plans to make one is another. But it really feels like pure corporate spite — a pissing match — that Netflix is refusing the allow their iPad app to run on VisionOS.

Kyle Hughes:

The thing about watching stuff on the Vision Pro is that 95% of everything I watch, which isn’t background YouTube, is with my partner. Maybe twice a year I watch a movie alone on a plane. Gah!


Apple’s not even making all of its first party iPad apps compatible with visionOS, including iMovie. I don’t see any reason to think not making an app is malice. I mean the product’s not even out yet, and even if it’s a wild success it will have very few users because of supply. I don’t know why they would be feverishly rushing as if they were the ones who had something vested in the Vision Pro’s success or failure. That certainly doesn’t sound like something Apple would do for another company. Except for the iOS app store, a lot of Apple’s third party stores have been flops: the iPad textbooks boondoggle, the magazine subscription service that became Apple News, the iMessage App Store, and the Apple Watch App Store. Not everyone has to come running—or should want to—every time Apple rings a triangle bell.


question: is Netflix making its iPad app work on visionOS something they’d be doing for Apple, or something they’d be doing for their customers? […] When a company dis-aligns its interests from its customers’, they begin to enshittify.

Christina Warren:

I also understand not dedicating engineering resources (any of them) to a $3500 dev kit masked as a consumer product (it prob will be a consumer product but it won’t be at launch) at launch. Especially when the company who makes said dev kit has gone out of its way to undermine your business.


I’m not arguing this is a pro-consumer move, of course it isn’t. But Apple has through its own policies, continuously asserted that it and its platform matter more than the developers that make up said platform, as a way of getting devs to follow often arbitrary and capricious decisions. Netflix is a service and platform that does not need to kowtow to anyone.


I also fully expect that if Vision Pro develops a real audience and a real user base, Netflix will show up. But I don’t see the point in bending over backwards and wasting engineering resources this time. This isn’t 2010 and it isn’t the iPad.


And frankly, there are very few companies that can take this stance this way. I much prefer the Netflix method to the Epic method and Netflix has done this before[…]


Netflix doesn’t even have a Meta Quest app, you’re stuck to 480p in the browser on that headset. And they‘re not in a war with Meta, they just don’t care (about their customers wishes)

Dare Obasanjo:

I remember when Netflix was about being on any device, no matter how niche.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Perhaps indicative of a breakdown in developer relations, or just unwilling to blindly prop up a new platform after seeing the power it gave Apple last time round[…] Negotiating tactic, or are we going to see more of this? I can’t imagine a movie headset without Netflix.

Michael Love:

This “spite” talk ignores the fact that for a nascent market like headsets, Netflix might feel like it’s in their corporate interest for Apple to fail, in favor of a more developer-friendly company; whatever number of subscriptions they might lose is trivial compared to that long-term benefit.

Dare Obasanjo:

Apple has actually hurt their Vision Pro launch here with their greed since the lawsuit with Epic means there’s no Unreal for making AVP apps and now Unity is struggling so will be challenged to do a great job supporting a nascent spatial computing ecosystem. 😬

Jesse Squires:

Apple: repeatedly sabotages and deteriorates developer relations for years

Also Apple: “Will you please make apps for our new platform? Because we couldn’t be bothered to port any of our own apps.”

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Looking back at the WWDC presentation of Vision Pro, I realize Apple never did show the rest of its iWork apps running natively on the device. In fact Numbers is shown in emulated iPad mode.

Maybe Keynote is the only native visionOS port? 👀


It’s honestly a little worrying that Apple showed off native ports of Microsoft Office for visionOS, but its own Numbers app was run in iPad emulation mode. And this is what I don’t get about not having a launch event — …do you not have native versions of all your first-party apps to still show off? Is that just not happening?

Steve Troughton-Smith:

If one of the primary use cases, from the outset, for Vision Pro is plugged in at a desk, with mouse and keyboard[…] Was basing the OS on iPadOS the wrong choice? Will this give it a permanent impairment that hinders it longterm and relegates it to toy computer status for most people, just like its tablet ancestor?

Craig Hockenberry:

Regardless of the technical hurdles (sending lots of pixels back and forth), I see a bigger issue with logistics.

Do you really have to carry a Mac around to get real work done with Vision Pro? Apple’s refusal to open up the sandbox to be at a parity with the Mac is killing things for developers.

Folks working with spreadsheets and word processors will be fine, but as soon as your work involves more than one process you’re screwed. We have so many processes.

John Voorhees (Mastodon):

In planning our coverage at MacStories, we’ve already collected a list of over 50 apps from some of our favorite developers who have been hard at work on visionOS versions of their apps.


As it turns out, it’s possible to tell if a developer has opted out by using App Store API endpoints. So, with a little help, we built a shortcut to check some of the most popular apps on the App Store. We had heard through the grapevine that Spotify was showing that it would be available in compatibility mode several days ago but had flipped to unavailable on the Vision Pro, and sure enough, our shortcut confirms Spotify has opted out of offering its app on day one. Also, in testing the shortcut and fact-checking its results, we came across a Gist on GitHub that was last active last week and uses a similar approach to our shortcut but by using a Python script, which lends support to our findings.


What we found when we searched 46 of the most popular apps on the App Store is that as of today, none will be available on launch day as native apps, and just over one-third will be available in compatibility mode.

Adam Chandler:

Still withholding judgement until I use it but Vision Pro being M2 powered, lack WiFi 6E, have a small sample of “demo scenes” that are immersive, a non-usable keyboard and a strap system that is either too heavy, hard to seal or pinches your hair and only gets 2 hours battery isn’t looking good.

Definitely feels like a public beta and a product that really should only be purchased by developers creating content for it so the one for $1999 in 12 months is the real thing.

Dave Winer:

I’ve been wrong about many of Apple’s products, but not the ones that made the company -- the Apple II and Mac, though I was somewhat skeptical of the iPhone because I couldn’t write software for it, but I did get one on the day they came out in June 2007, and never used my Blackberry again. Anyway, the goggles they just started demoing to selected reporters and analysts looks like a product they released because they invested billions in it, had no idea what it’s used for, and were overlooking the ability of the human body to actually use such a thing, and couldn’t consider writing it off because so much had been made of this, esp since the current management has been coasting on innovation done by Steve Jobs, and hadn’t released anything that wasn’t completely predictable since his passing in 2011. Their lack of confidence in their own product overwhelms any positive reviews coming out from the privileged press, who we know in advance to discount, these are the press people Apple can count on to not say a negative word, to preserve their access at least, if not because they are complete fans. It reeks of a loser product. I write these things partially so I can be proven ridiculously wrong when I get one myself in two weeks and can’t believe all the things I can do with it.


Update (2024-01-23): Damien Petrilli:

So this is the best game Apple can show for their $4,000 headset

May be you shouldn’t have burnt the bridge with the gaming industry.

Mark Gurman and Ashley Carman (Hacker News):

Google’s YouTube and Spotify Technology SA, the world’s most popular video and music services, are joining Netflix Inc. in steering clear of Apple Inc.’s upcoming mixed-reality headset.

John Gruber:

YouTube is a surprise to me, and it’s a sign of how profoundly different the relationship is between Google and Apple today from the pre-Android era. In 2007, before third-party apps were even supported on iOS, YouTube was a built-in app on the original iPhone.


Entertainment is not the sole purpose of Vision Pro, but it’s a major one — and surely the primary one for many buyers — and it’s launching without the two biggest video entertainment apps in the world. Apple expected Netflix’s iPad app to be there on launch day.

Matt Birchler:

We didn’t get those videos before pre-orders, but Apple did post this video on their site today, and it’s exactly what I was hoping to see. I know different marketing messages work for different groups of people, but when there’s a new product category, I’m most engaged by drilling into the details of how you use the new thing.

Me, too, though I did not find the Guided Tour video very satisfying. It’s fine for what it is, but it still seems very surface level.

Victoria Song:

This is all well and good, but it’s strange to wear the headset and not actually know what’s happening on that front display — to not really have a sense of your appearance. And it’s even stranger that looking at people in the real world can cause them to appear, apparition-like, in the virtual world. The social cues of this thing are going to take a long while to sort out. Admittedly, it was all a whirlwind. I spent a half-hour like a kid gawping at an alien planet — even though I’d never left the couch. But by the end of my demo, I started to feel the weight of the headset bring me back to the real world. I’d been furrowing my brow, concentrating so hard, I felt the beginnings of a mild headache. That tension dissipated as soon as I took the headset off, but walking back out into Manhattan, I kept replaying the demo over in my head. I know what I just saw. I’m just still trying to see where it fits in the real world.

Nick Heer:

Even knowing all of this, I cannot help but feel Apple is redefining the personal computer in a way that has so far eluded other attempts from it and others. Perhaps the eventual Vision line will not entirely replace the Mac, but I could see that being the case for lots of people, not just those who would also find an iPad or an iPhone an acceptable working device. Most of us have jobs that could benefit from having more space, even if we are just spending time in spreadsheets or building an email campaign. Putting a development window and a browser window side-by-side on my 27-inch iMac is workable but cramped. I am imagining how great it could be if I could put those windows all around me, plus more for different browser widths. A desktop projected across an entire field of vision is, in theory, more capable and more elegant than multiple monitors, especially if there is no discernible loss of quality.

At least, that is how it appears from the outside looking in. I have not even glanced at a Vision Pro in person, let alone spent time with one. (That is why this post is titled “Vision Curious”, not “Vision Pro Impressions”.) But it is not hard to see an ambitious roadmap: to one day augment or even replace the Mac with something simultaneously more expansive and more portable.


Hold on, though; here is the catch: while Apple says the Vision Pro is capable of displaying a MacOS environment as a 4K display within the virtual environment, VisionOS is based on iPadOS. Given the system’s design and the way one navigates within it, this is not a surprise. Yet, here I am, already questioning whether VisionOS will be able to keep Safari tabs in memory or if it will reload them after using other applications, like iPadOS has always done. Can Photos in VisionOS create Smart Albums? Heck — can it even display Smart Albums?

Update (2024-01-30): Ben Thompson (Hacker News):

That description of the iTunes Music Store is perhaps a touch cynical, but it is impossible to ignore the importance of music piracy in Apple’s original deal with the record labels. Apple was able to make a deal in part because it was offering the carrot of increased digital revenue, but it was certainly aided by the stick of piracy obliterating CD sales.


This period of the App Store didn’t require any sticks: the capability of the iPhone was carrot enough, and, over the next few years, as the iPhone exploded in popularity, the market opportunity afforded by the App Store proved even more attractive.


Apple may be unhappy that Netflix viewers have to go to the Netflix website to watch the service on the Vision Pro (and thus can’t download shows for watching offline, like on a plane); Netflix might well point out that that going to the web is exactly what Apple makes Netflix customers do to sign up for the service.


This is the consequence of fashioning App Store policies as a stick: until there is a carrot of a massive user base, it’s hard to see why developers of any size would be particularly motivated to build experiences for the Vision Pro, which will make it that much more difficult to attract said massive user base.

Wesley Hilliard (Hacker News, MacRumors):

The Netflix CEO Greg Peters was asked about this decision during an interview held by Stratechery, and his reply was expected. Simply, Apple Vision Pro is too small a market and wouldn’t yield a return for the effort.

Basic Apple Guy:

The question of what and how I will use Vision Pro remains my most significant unanswered area regarding this product.

When I look at the available apps, I struggle to distinguish why someone would go to Vision Pro over a Mac, iPad, or iPhone. I consider factors like comfort, speed, features, enjoyment, and convenience when deciding what product to use for what purpose.

Craig Hockenberry:

It feels like we’re at a crossroads for platforms, but one that’s impossible to pass.


But you’ll still be carrying the Mac around to get any work done. Somewhat ironically, the Apple Vision Pro is not doing the heavy lifting, but it will be the thing that’s cumbersome in your daily life.

Here’s a comparison of the headset’s carrying case and a MacBook Air[…]

The Apple Vision Pro is almost 15 times taller than the MacBook Air. Even worse, I can’t even close my backpack, much less fit in a laptop[…]


This isn’t a sustainable situation for the next 40 years. Without some low-level structural changes in visionOS, it will never thrive as a developer platform. Just as the iPad has not.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

On the one hand, Apple is out on the forefront of a whole new set of technologies, and isn’t going to have viable competition for quite a while.

On the other hand, we’ve seen Apple struggle to innovate on platforms where it has no viable competition, or simply take its foot off the gas for far too long. A lost decade of the Mac, iPads that still can’t fulfill their potential 14 years on, and an Apple Watch that has had indistinguishable models (with the same CPU) for years at a time.

See also: Palmer Luckey, Reddit.


Update (2024-02-06): Brent Simmons:

I consider it risky to support an app running on a device I don’t own. […] Eventually the price will come down to where I’d consider buying one as a test device and for a little fun — but that may be a few years away. I’m hoping that we’ll find, sooner than that, that running as iPad on Vision Pro is a-okay.


Reminds me of one of my favourite old docs, Q&A OV01 “Test What You Ship”.

9 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I hope I'm wrong, but I think Vision Pro is going to be a huge flop. Even if they come up with a version a year from now that's 50% cheaper and not as heavy, I just don't see it succeeding. I'm not a gamer but it does seem like one of the most compelling uses of a VR headset is for immersive gaming, and Apple has always sucked at gaming. Heck, they can't even make the iPad not suck in a hundred different ways after all these years. I think they're so focused on locking down their devices in order to extract App Store profits, that they've lost a sense of what their users really want.

Vast Wasteland

Speaking of Netflix in Safari, I was running it there recently on a Mac and noticed that when I put a movie in fullscreen mode, it filled the screen and significantly cropped the right side of the frame. At first I thought it was just that particular movie, but it persisted with others. Then I ran across this discussion about it:

It seems to have been going on for a few months. Makes me wonder if this will persist in Safari on the Vision.

Another thing Netflix doesn't care about is making multichannel sound available through Safari. It worked for me with Hulu in Safari.

Old Unix Geek

Unlike Dave Winer, I think the goggle format has potential to do well in the long term, but not with Apple in the driver's seat. Their theft (Sherlocking) of good ideas, their treatment of all software developers as sharecroppers make it a bad platform to develop new ideas on, if one ever hopes to prosper from one's effort. (Apple does not even seem to respect their competitors' patents while defending their own strenuously).

At least, for those of us who came from Unix, Apple lucked out with MacOS, because wow, it was a NeXT box, ran Unix, and you could sell software you made on it... what a deal! But then they forgot that one of the strengths of Unix is compatibility, and backward compatibility. And then they dumped the NeXT bit (ObjC/Cocoa). And then they introduced "software signing"... and probably soon will require the AppStore for everyone.

They lucked out with the iPhone because we, the hacker community, hacked it, proved one could code cool things on it, and thus created an App market for it (Cydia). But we didn't expect them to take over that commons and to convert us into peasants who must comply with their made-up rules and who must be grateful for scraps from their table.

So, while I would have been interested in exploring the future on this platform, some time ago, I'm not. Once bitten, twice shy... It's bittersweet.
Apparently even Apple's large competitors feel similarly, if the reports of apps being held back are true.

I haven't checked recently, but my impression is that fewer people have been clamoring to develop for watchOS or tvOS, suggesting wariness from the the developer community: everyone has a phone, but not everyone needs a watch or a TV... even less a pair of goggles.

So while people who already have apps on the AppStore will spend the effort to make them available if the goggles take off, developing new apps for this platform does not make much sense: it's a small market of the even more than usually entitled people ($4000 with lenses and sales tax) who will be less likely to tolerate the likely bugs due to a new platform.

Hopefully someone else, willing to work with others instead of exploiting them, will develop something like this as a platform that would be worth experimenting on, once the hardware costs come down.

@Old Unix Geek And I think the presumption is that any really clever innovations will be banned or copied by Apple (or both).

Does the Netflix iPad app work on M_ Macintosh? (I don't know) Is the entitlement for running an iOS app on MacOS different for running on VisionOS? (I assume yes but don't know). It's just a waiting game. Pundits speculate Apple can only get about 500,000 manufactured for sale across this calendar year.

After apples low effort ad, the one with clips from old films of characters putting on goggles, I get the feeling that Apple don't have much confidence in their VR helmet.

I don't see a tempting use case personally, and if people netflixing on planes is the main pillar then neither can apple.

"John Gruber (Mastodon):

Mac users sure do enjoy not being able to download Netflix movies or shows for offline viewing — you know, like in an airplane, one of the most obvious and common places where Vision Pro will be used.

Not having a native VisionOS app is one thing. Apparently having no current plans to make one is another. But it really feels like pure corporate spite — a pissing match — that Netflix is refusing the allow their iPad app to run on VisionOS."

Comments like this are so strange and absurd.

Pure corporate spite? Like Apple trying to take 12-27% for purchases made on links to an external store? Like Apple refusing to pay Masimo to license a patent (and don't give me that crap that patents are evil and Apple has some moral high ground. They said they had a patent on the rounded rectangle for God's sake)?

Corporate Apple not allowing Nvidia to write drivers and sell GPUs that work on Macs?

These people seem to think Apple is entitled to everything. It's not a privilege to develop for Apple. It's a partnership. Business matters to other companies too, not just Apple (and I don't even really like Netflix). Developers don't *have to* write apps for Apple platforms. Apple continues to act like they are entitled to everything and everyone else is entitled to nothing.


[...planeloads of Apple sycophants wearing heavy $3,500 goggles...]


That's ... ... ... the killer app?

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