Mark Zuckerberg believes Apple and his company are in a “very deep, philosophical competition” to build the metaverse, suggesting the two tech giants are poised to head off selling augmented and virtual reality hardware. .
Meta’s CEO told employees earlier this month that they were competing with Apple to determine “which direction the internet should go,” according to a recording of his comments during an internal meeting of all involved. The edge. He said Meta would position itself as the more open, cheaper alternative to Apple, which is expected to announce its first AR headset later this year.
“This is a competition of philosophies and ideas, where they believe that by doing everything themselves and integrating closely, they can build a better consumer experience,” Zuckerberg said of the brooding rivalry. “And we believe there is a lot to do in terms of specialization across different companies, and [that] will enable a much larger ecosystem.”
Since changing Facebook’s company name to Meta, Zuckerberg has pushed for the concept of interoperability for the metaverse, or what he sees as the next big chapter of computing after cell phones. Meta recently helped establish the Metaverse Open Standards Group with Microsoft, Epic Games, and others. The idea is to drive the creation of open protocols that will allow people to easily navigate future immersive 3D worlds with their virtual goods.
Apple is absent from the group, which Zuckerberg unsurprisingly mentioned in his comments to employees. He explained how Apple’s approach to building hardware and software that it closely controls had worked well with the iPhone, but that for the metaverse, “it’s not really clear whether an open or closed ecosystem will be better.”
While CEO Tim Cook has been candid about the company’s interest in AR as a category, Apple has typically kept quiet about its unannounced hardware plans. Still, all signs point to the imminent release of a high-end headset that blurs the full immersion of VR with AR experiences that overlap the real world. Meta plans to release a similar type of headset later this year, codenamed Cambria, and is also preparing its first real AR glasses.
If VR and AR take off as Zuckerberg hopes, it looks like he’s looking to position Meta as the Android ahead of Apple’s iOS. There’s already a parallel to be drawn: Meta’s Quest headset already allows sideloading of apps not approved by Meta’s VR app store, similar to how Google’s Android allows sideloading. And even though it has increased the price of the Quest by $100, Meta’s hardware is still mostly sold at a loss or breakeven.
Apple and Meta never actually saw each other. The former currently costs the last billions of dollars a year in lost ad revenue on iOS, thanks to the prompt asking people if they want a third-party app to track them for showing ads. Zuckerberg’s comments suggest that even if he tries to figure out a way to get under Apple’s thumb on mobile, the two tech giants will be battling for years to come.
Below is a slightly edited transcript of Zuckerberg’s June 30 response to a Meta employee’s question about metaverse competition with Apple:
Employee question: Apple is absent from metaverse standards and comes with their own AR glasses. How does that affect Oculus and our ecosystem? Thank you.
Mark Zuckerberg: I think it’s pretty clear that Apple is going to be a competitor for us, not just as a product, but also philosophically. We are approaching this in an open way and trying to build a more open ecosystem. We’re trying to make more things interoperable with Android. We are trying to develop the metaverse in such a way that you can transfer your virtual goods from one world to another. We founded the Metaverse Open Standards Group with some other people you just mentioned, and Apple didn’t join. But I don’t think that’s a surprise. Apple has been the closed supplier of computers for a few generations now.
This is a competition of philosophies and ideas, where they believe that by doing everything themselves and integrating closely, they can build a better consumer experience. And we believe there is a lot to do in terms of specialization at different companies, and [that] will enable a much larger ecosystem.
One of the things I find interesting is that it’s not really clear whether an open or closed ecosystem will be better. If you look back at PCs, Windows was clearly the one that had a lot more scale and became the standard and norm that people used. And Mac was doing fine, but I think PC and Windows were, I think, the most important ecosystem in that environment.
On mobile, I’d say it’s more the other way around. There are more Android devices than iOS devices, but I think in developed countries and places like the US or Western Europe in some kind of high-end, [and] a lot of the culture-setters and developers, I think that leans quite a bit more towards iPhone and iOS. So I’d say on mobile, Apple has really put themselves in a pretty good position, and that’s why they’re the most valuable company in the world, or maybe one of the most valuable companies in the world.
But I just don’t think the future isn’t written here for the metaverse yet. And I think part of our job is to keep doing cutting edge research and pushing it across all levels of the stack. We do VR. We do AR. In principle, we supply our devices at cost price or for a small subsidy, or in some cases slightly more than cost. But the bottom line is that our company isn’t taking a premium on the devices in the first place. We want as many people as possible to interact there. Part of that is that it is an open ecosystem that is interoperable.
Our North Star is: Can we get a billion people in the metaverse doing hundreds of dollars apiece in digital commerce by the end of the decade? If we do, we’ll build a business as big as our current advertising business within this decade. I think that’s a very exciting thing. I think a big part of how you do that is by pushing the open metaverse forward, which is what we’re going to do.
So yes, Apple is going to be a competitor. I think that’s pretty obvious, but it’s actually a very deep competitor. It’s not right [that] they have a device that has a little more features than us. It’s a very in-depth, philosophical contest about which direction the internet should take. And I’m proud of the investment we’re making to push the open metaverse forward in this and hopefully make the next version of computing a little bit more open.