Apple’s Tim Cook Says Augmented Reality Will “Change Everything”

Add Apple CEO Tim Cook to the list of Silicon Valley technologists who believe in the transformative power of augmented reality, saying it’s going to “change everything.”

Augmented reality — that technology that overlays virtual images and information onto the real world, like a magical television chyron — long has seemed the stuff of science fiction. But since incorporating AR into Apple’s iOS 11 mobile operating system in September, developers have released more than 1,000 apps that harness the technology.

It’s the same sort of brisk adoption Apple previously saw in 2008, with the introduction of the App Store.

“Simply put, we believe augmented reality is going to change the way we use technology forever,” Cook said during today’s fourth-quarter earnings call with analysts. “We’re already seeing things that will transform the way you work, play, connect and learn.”

Cook offered examples of how AR is being used to elevate prosaic experiences, like the ability to place a virtual version of a couch in the living room before making a furniture purchase, or attending a live sporting event and seeing stats displayed on the field. Its applications for elementary and secondary education, he said, make him yearn to return to the classroom.

“Augmented reality is going to change everything,” Cook said.

Apple said today it ended fiscal 2017 with record September quarter revenue of $52.6 billion, a 12% jump over last year. Sales were buoyed by a return to growth in China, thanks to brisk sales of the iPhone, iPad and Mac, as well as to gains in emerging markets. The company posted per-share earnings of $2.07, or $10.71 billion.

Cook said the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, released in September, “instantly became our two most popular iPhone models.” The 10th anniversary edition iPhone X, which boasts such advanced features as face recognition (used to unlock the device) and studio-quality photo lighting effects, went on sale in Australia during the earnings call.

The venerable Mac notebook achieved record annual revenue, thanks to an update that happened in June — just in time for the back-to-school season. Apple sold 5.4 million Macs during the September quarter.

Even the iPad, which has been in decline, saw a return to growth, with 10.3 million tablets sold.

The much-maligned Apple Watch, now in its third edition, saw unit sales jump by 50% (though Apple still refuses to release unit sales figures). The addition of cellular connectivity — which allows runners to hit the road and get calls without lugging their cellphone — has proven “a game-changer” for consumers, Cook said.

Apple’s wearable computing products — which include the Apple Watch and AirPod wireless earphones — are up 75% year-over-year.

Apple’s services set a quarterly record revenue of $8.5 billion, up 34% from a year ago. That figure was bolstered by a favorable one-time revenue adjustment of $640 million, notes CFO Luca Maestri. But that wasn’t the whole story.

The App Store set a record. Apple Music saw a 75% jump in paid subscribers from a year ago (though the company did not release updated subscriber numbers). And the iCloud storage business was up double digits.

Maestri is forecasting a strong December quarter for Apple, with revenue of $84 and $87 billion.

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