Meta and Apple are entering a period of “very deep, philosophical competition” that will define the future of the Internet, according to comments by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg obtained by The Verge.
Both Apple and Meta are planning to invest heavily in mixed reality over the next decade, but they have diametrically opposed visions for what the AR/VR/XR landscape should ideally look like.
The Verge obtained an audio recording of an all-hands employee meeting at Meta, in which Zuckerberg answered an employee question about the company’s future competition with Apple in great detail. His comments shed some light on how Meta, at least, sees the rivalry.
“I think it’s pretty clear that Apple is going to be a competitor for us, not just as a product but philosophically,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re approaching this in an open way and trying to build a more open ecosystem.” He noted that Meta co-founded the Metaverse Open Standards Group with other companies like Microsoft, with an aim to establish some level of interoperability or portability of assets between virtual spaces. Apple didn’t join, and Zuckerberg said, “I don’t think that’s a surprise.”
He went on:
This is a competition of philosophies and ideas, where they believe that by doing everything themselves and tightly integrating that they build a better consumer experience. And we believe that there is a lot to be done in specialization across different companies, and [that] will allow a much larger ecosystem to exist.
One of the things I think is interesting is that it’s not really clear upfront whether an open or closed ecosystem is going to be better. If you look back to PCs, Windows was clearly the one that had a lot more scale and became the default and norm that people used. And Mac did fine, but I think PC and Windows were, I think, the premier ecosystem in that environment.
On mobile, I would say it’s more the other way. There’s more Android devices than there are iOS devices, but I think in developed countries and places like the US or Western Europe in kind of the high end, [and] a lot of the culture-setters and developers, I do think that skews quite a bit more towards iPhone and iOS. So I’d say on mobile, Apple has really carved out quite a good position for themselves, and that’s why they’re the most valuable company in the world, or maybe one of the couple most valuable companies in the world.
Both Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook have said in the past that they believe that either augmented reality, virtual reality, or mixed reality will be the next big computing platform, following the desktop and mobile eras.
And Zuckerberg’s quotes suggest that while Apple predictably follows the same closed ecosystem it has before with the Mac (desktop) and iPhone (mobile), he sees Meta taking the more open-ended role of a Windows or Android for mixed reality.
But he also said, “I just don’t think that the future is written here yet for the metaverse,” admitting that he doesn’t know whether the strategy he has bet his entire company on will ultimately be the right one.
He finished his remarks with:
Apple is going to be a competitor. I think that that’s pretty clear, but it’s actually a very deep competitor. It’s not just [that] they have a device that has some more features than us. It’s a very deep, philosophical competition about what direction the Internet should go in. And I am proud of the investments that we’re making to help push forward the open metaverse on this and hopefully make the next version of computing a bit more open.
According to leaks and analysts, Apple is nearing readiness to launch its first mixed reality headset, an AR/VR hybrid device that will be built on the company’s recent advances in chip design and sold at a premium, and the company also plans to launch an AR headset at some point in the next few years.
And Meta already more or less owns the VR marketplace following its Oculus acquisition with the popular Quest headset. Meta also plans to launch a mixed reality headset soon—and it’s planning to introduce AR glasses later, too.