Investors should have very little doubt that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is hard at work developing augmented reality (AR) glasses. Not only has Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported on some early details regarding the project, but CEO Tim Cook can't seem to stop talking about the technology's game-changing potential (although we have yet to actually hear Cook "yell out and scream" about AR).
The Nikkei Asian Review is out with a fresh report regarding one of Apple's suppliers for metal casings, Catcher Technology. Catcher just reported earnings -- and dropped some possible hints regarding potential new AR products during its conference call.
Could Apple Glasses be just two years away?
Apple sources metal casings for iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks from Catcher, which is also listed as one of Apple's top 200 suppliers for 2017. The company specializes in light metal casings for the consumer electronics industry.
"Based on what we have learned, [new AR products] need to look good and be light enough to wear ... that makes the casings for such device very complicated to manufacture and there are still a lot of challenges to overcome currently," Catcher Chairman Allen Horng said during the call, according to the Nikkei. Horng did not specify Apple by name at any point.
The report also cites Yuanta analyst Jeff Pu as predicting that Apple may launch its AR glasses as soon as 2019, which is a year earlier than when noted Apple analyst Gene Munster thinks they'll ship.
That's what he said
On Apple's earnings call last week, Cook again reiterated how excited he is for AR, even suggesting he'd happily go back to grade school:
The reason I'm so excited about AR is, I view that it amplifies human performance instead of isolat[ing] humans. And so, as you know, it's the mix of the virtual and the physical world. And so it should be a help for humanity, not an isolation kind of thing for humanity. As I go through different countries, as I've been traveling lately and looking at things, some things in the market, other things that are coming, the very cool thing is they're all over the place.
I see things that the consumer's going to love because it's going to change shopping. I see things that consumers will love on the gaming side, on the entertainment side. I see business-related AR apps as well that are going to be great for productivity between small and large business. And I see apps that makes me want to go back to K-12 again and repeat my schooling because I think it changes the game in the classroom a lot. And so the real beauty here is that it's mainstream.
Meanwhile, Apple's research and development expenditures continue to grow ever greater, recently hitting a new high as a percentage of revenue. The Mac maker's ongoing exploration of autonomous driving systems surely takes up a fair chunk of that R&D budget, but it's safe to say that Apple is also investing heavily in AR, as it's clearly a priority for Cook.
Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.