Meta puts us to work in VR and buys credibility by playing footsie with Microsoft
Things are moving forward in building the metaverse. That was Mark Zuckerberg's message at Meta Connect 2022, the annual high mass where the American tech company presents its novelties. But the building doesn't seem to be moving very fast. The big - but predictable - news was the presentation of the Meta Quest Pro VR glasses. More surprising was the partnership Meta is setting up with Microsoft: a clear move to the market of companies as well as gamers. So two concrete milestones, but apart from that, Zuckerberg had to talk mainly about future plans that are still not very concrete.
A year ago, Zuckerberg renamed his Facebook to Meta. Since then, he raked in $10 billion to build his world: R&D, software, hardware, and legs. More on that later. And yet Zuckerberg doesn't expect to earn anything from that immediately. "I'm poised for a string of disappointments," he said, though he remains an evangelist of AR and VR as the next big thing. "It's the ultimate elaboration of what we wanted to do from the beginning: build social software."
Working and gaming in the metaverse
And so his teams built the Meta Quest Pro, the hero of this Meta Connect 2022. The mixed reality headset projects up to three screens into your space in VR. Read: you do still see what's happening around you. Switching to VR is also possible, if, for example, you want to have a meeting with other avatars. What stands out: the Quest 2 looked like clunky goggles. The Pro has slimmed down to a kind of ski goggles.
“What stands out is that the Quest Pro is work gear, not a toy. So the metaverse according to Zuckerberg will not just be the place where you game or dress up your avatar in Balenciaga - you will work there”
But what's even more striking is that the Quest Pro is work gear, not a toy. So the metaverse according to Zuckerberg won't just be the place where you game or dress up your avatar in Balenciaga - you will work there. "Actually, for the 200 million people who buy a new PC every year, this is an opportunity to do work in VR instead."
Though gamers are not forgotten: Meta announced a partnership with Universal, which means there will be a successor to VR game Walking Dead. No surprises there: the first edition brought in about $50 million. That there is money in VR games also proved the whole mess of games that defiled, bringing in millions of revenue in just two days.
Meta ❤️ Microsoft
Nothing earth-shattering, these announcements. That the Meta Quest Pro would be the main event of the conference, we all knew. And that games are big business is also nothing new. But Meta did manage to surprise with a new partnership. Because I honestly didn't see Zuckerberg hitching his wagon to Microsoft. Nor that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was suddenly in the keynote. Pretty epic.
“I honestly didn't see Zuckerberg hitching his wagon to Microsoft. Nor that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was suddenly in the keynote.”
And smart. Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard this year for $69 billion. They also meanwhile own Minecraft and the XBox ecosystem, which smoothly moves Microsoft into the top 3 largest gaming companies in the world. Nadella wrote in the press release announcing the acquisition that he had bought the building blocks of the metaverse with this acquisition.
Facebook, on the other hand, is absolutely nowhere when it comes to gaming and could also use some traction on B2B. Two birds with one stone: Meta is going to bring Teams applications and Microsoft's games into the metaverse. If you can't beat them, join them, they say. Although Microsoft has no reason to develop this kind of collaboration only with Meta.
“Two birds with one stone: Meta is going to bring Teams applications and Microsoft's games into the metaverse.”
That is no doubt why the Microsoft partnership is not alone. Zuckerberg's plan seems to be to build a network. Zoom is in on the deal with Microsoft. Ecosystem thinking all the way, then, because that way your avatar becomes usable on different platforms and we finally get interoperability.
Downside: the big boys continue to own your data. Also moving to the table for collaborations: Autodesk and Adobe, after McDonald's announced earlier this year it will use Workplace for its employees. So developing more products and services for businesses seems to be Meta's strategy to get their new goggles sold. The question remains who will plunk down 1,500 euros to put a laptop on their nose. The image quality and the "amount of friction" will soon tell us.
Anyway, there are clearly believers, and they are not the least. Accenture, meanwhile, does its onboarding of newbies in VR - already 150K applicants - and it shows that with such an interaction, retention goes up by a third. So they believe in it, and they are not alone. Seven of the 11 largest companies on earth are throwing billions against the development of the metaverse and immersive hardware. But money alone won't be enough.
“Seven of the 11 largest companies on earth are throwing billions against the development of the metaverse and immersive hardware. But money alone won't be enough.”
I very much believe that Zuckerberg is going in the right direction with his gamble on the next iteration of the Internet. The world is becoming more 3D and gamified and so is the Internet. But this is a technological evolution that money alone cannot pay for. The research Meta is doing is impressive, but the question remains whether you will soon be putting super cool glasses with super cool features on your head when the image quality is worse than that of your laptop. Isn't that asking a bit much?
You get the same problem when you organize big events and make announcements about milestones, plastered with superlatives. If there are no concrete achievements in return (the fact that the avatars finally have legs doesn't count), the public will eventually feel suspicious. I speak from experience: I have been preaching for years that VR is the next big thing. Yep, customers say. Perhaps Zuckerberg would do well to operate under the radar a little longer, despite the hot breath of Bytedance and Apple breathing down his neck?