Zuckerberg’s VR Vision: Will Rejecting Google’s Android XR Cost Meta in the Long Run?

(Image by Maria Korolov via Adobe Firefly.)

Could Mark Zuckerberg’s lust-driven quest to own VR, AR and mixed reality end up costing Meta at the end of the day?

That’s a question being posed after The Information reported recently that Google had approached Meta partner with its new software platform — Google Android XR — that is being developed for virtual reality. While rumors have Meta talking to hardware companies like LG Electronics about building new devices using Quest’s software, there’s nothing to indicate Zuckerberg’s vision of shifting from using an open-sourced version of Google’s Android OS.

In fact, you could argue there’s even a little bit of bad blood in what is otherwise a solid working relationship.

“Zuckerberg believes he still has a significant market advantage, which he does,” said Rolf Illenberger, CEO of VRdirect, who has been instrumental in deploying VR and AI solutions for major enterprise clients like Nestle, Siemens, and Lufthansa. “Not only that, but Meta and Google both launched platforms back in 2018 — and while Google abandoned theirs, Zuckerburg has taken a lot of heat, and put a lot of dollars into developing Oculus and its audience over the last six years.”

“So, while there’s give and take, there’s far more to Meta wanting to plant its flag in VR,” he added.

That give and take is simple. Despite what would be described as a cordial and friendly working relationship, Google doesn’t let Meta offer the full range of apps on its headsets and working together. If they partnered more formally on Android XR, Google would be willing to offer greater access to those apps.

Meta addressed this in a statement blaming Google’s restrictive terms.

“After years of not focusing on VR or doing anything to support our work in the space, Google has been pitching AndroidXR to partners and suggesting, incredibly, that we are the ones threatening to fragment the ecosystem when they are the ones who plan to do exactly that,” said CTO Andrew Bosworth in a post on Threads earlier this month. “We would love to partner with them. They could bring their apps to Quest today!”

It would be a win for their developers and all consumers, he added, and said that Meta plans to keep pushing for it.

“Instead, they want us to agree to restrictive terms that require us to give up our freedom to innovate and build better experiences for people and developers,” he continued. “We’ve seen this play out before and we think we can do better this time around.”

It appears that Samsung will be the first hardware maker to use the Android XR and, according to The Information, Google has been pitching it to other hardware makers.

“One of Apple’s biggest go-to-market advantages with VR was its integrated ecosystem around the OS,” says Illenberger. “They have made the OS and development of apps around the VisionOS part of their priority, even with a first-generation Vision Pro that has a price point designed not to captivate a consumer market just yet.”

And if that weren’t enough, bickering between Meta and Google over software with Apple looming in the background brings up another thing — how something as simple as an app can move markets with these three involved, like iMessage.

“If you write someone a text, photo, or video on the Apple Vision Pro and it’s going to someone else in that ecosystem, whether on a phone, Watch or iPad, the bubble is still going to be blue,” Illenberger said. “Not that we’ve found the device to be particularly useful for it. But it’s amazing how something as simple as the color of a text bubble on a messaging app can move consumer interest between these three tech mega giants.”