Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg (L) and Apple CEO, Tim Cook
Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday hinted that he sees Apple as Meta’s main competitor in virtual and augmented reality, which it calls the “metaverse.”
The remarks came after the Meta CEO unveiled the company’s latest virtual reality headset, the $1,499 Quest Pro. Without naming Apple — as he has avoided doing in the past — he said that competitors were focused on building tight control over a VR platform that would lock consumers into a particular operating system.
“In every generation of computing, there’s been an open ecosystem and a closed ecosystem, there was Windows and Mac, then Android and iOS,” Zuckerberg said. “Closed ecosystems focus on tight control and integration to create unique experiences and lock in. Although most of that value ends up flowing to the platform over time.”
Zuckerberg’s remarks mirror Facebook’s ongoing complaints with how Apple manages the App Store for iPhones and iPads. The only way to install apps on Apple’s iPhone is through the App Store, forcing companies like Facebook to submit its software for approval with Apple’s App Review department, and taking between 15% and 30% of all digital sales.
Facebook has chafed against this restriction in the past, and Zuckerberg has accused Apple of preventing Facebook from adding features to its apps.
Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta last year, and the larger company is now focusing on virtual reality and computer-generated virtual worlds, known as the “metaverse,” to spark its next generation of growth. The company has warned it could take until the 2030s before the metaverse starts to generate significant revenue.
Zuckerberg said Meta is focusing on an “open ecosystem” that would share the upside of new metaverse technology with more developers and companies.
“I see our role is not just helping to build this open ecosystem, but making sure that the open ecosystem wins out in this next generation of the internet,” Zuckerberg said, saying that Meta hopes to partner with a broad range of companies.
The remarks are the latest sign of corporate tension between Apple and Facebook as they both invest heavily in developing virtual reality and augmented reality headsets.
Apple has not released a VR headset nor confirmed one is in the works, but analyst and press reports say the iPhone maker is preparing to release a VR device with the ability to pass through video from exterior cameras to interior high-definition screens in real time — the same headline feature on the Quest Pro.
Zuckerberg sees virtual reality and augmented reality as the start of a new platform that could supplant the smartphone eventually. If Meta ends up with a significant market share in head-worn computers and they take off and become a mainstream device, then Meta will no longer be constrained by Apple’s “closed ecosystem” policies.
Meta has also sparred with Apple over a recent platform privacy change that makes it harder for Facebook to offer targeted advertising, which Zuckerberg previously said cost the company $10 billion.
Meta said on Tuesday that it believes that the ultimate form of virtual or augmented reality would be a pair of glasses that would allow access to virtual worlds while being lightweight and having a day-long battery life — and that the company is actively working on this device.
“The fundamental technologies across the stack to build augmented reality glasses are coming together. We’ve got displays, sensors, silicon, AI, and more,” Zuckerberg said.