When we reported earlier this year that Meta had signed up fast food giant McDonald’s as a customer for Workplace, the B2B service that was originally conceived as a Facebook for enterprises, we noted that Workplace the product had been moved into a larger “Reality Labs” division to bring it closer to Meta’s VR business. Today, Meta announced some new developments that reflect this pivot: a slew of enterprise services aimed at a new push to get businesses to use it’s new, high-spec $1,499 Meta Quest Pro VR headsets in the workplace.
They include a new Horizon Workrooms version and partnerships with Microsoft, Accenture, Adobe, and Autodesk to develop more enterprise-ready and designer-ready VR services.
The change is not unexpected: Businesses are well-known to be some of the most likely (and, if you’re skeptical, some of the only) long-term customers of VR technology. Meta itself had already begun to develop applications and experiences for them. (Although not all of them have been carried out.) Oculus for Business was discontinued, and its replacement, Quest for Business, is still in closed beta. “We learned a lot from that,” said Micah Collins, director of Product Management for Meta’s work products, when I spoke with him yesterday. Meanwhile, while Facebook’s hardware has received positive feedback, it has never been a game changer.
.Simultaneously, Facebook’s other major metaverse enterprise effort, Workplace, has slowed in terms of native product development in recent years (a large integration with Microsoft’s Teams signaled a shift toward partners). As Meta launches its new device and seeks customers to buy and use it, developing more enterprise services for its device is the next logical step.
.The device itself is the foundation of that strategy. Meta emphasizes how features such as high-contrast pancake optics and full-color mixed reality have direct applications in the workplace for working on documents and collaborating on VR screens while still interacting in a physical room. Much has been made of Meta’s graphics previews from earlier this year, but for what it’s worth, the company claims that facial recognition and eye-tracking have been improved to help create more realistic avatars — not something I imagine is a top priority for businesses, but it’s probably nice to have.
More importantly, Meta is releasing an improved Meta Horizon Workroom for collaborating with others in VR. Breakout groups, “sticky notes” for whiteboards, multiple screens, Zoom integration, 3D modeling, and “Magic Rooms,” which allow teams to create rooms in VR of people from both remote and in-person environments, are among the new features. A plethora of startups are developing various permutations of these features for enterprise mixed-reality applications — Gravity Sketch is one of many we’ve covered — but this is notable for being in one platform. Focusing on Horizon Workrooms is a wise decision and an example of capitalizing on strengths: When the first version was released in August 2021, Lucas aptly described it as Meta finally making a good decision.
Meta’s growing friendship with Microsoft is an intriguing addition to this. In today’s presentation, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took the stage with Mark Zuckerberg to discuss their larger collaboration around VR and enterprise services. This will include bringing Teams and Windows 365 to Quest Pro, bringing Quest Pro avatars into Teams, and, most importantly, integrating some of Microsoft’s other services, such as enterprise security and device management, into Meta’s Quest Pro environment, an important aspect of bringing more enterprises on board.
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This is also where Meta’s next major collaboration will play a significant role: The company will collaborate more closely with Accenture as a bridge between Meta and enterprises that rely on consultants and integrators to embed and operationalize technology. Accenture is the first to do so, having distributed 60,000 Quest 2 headsets to its own employees. Numbers like this are most likely music to Meta’s ears (and in the case of VR, eyes too).