Mark Zuckerberg believes that Apple and his company are in a “very deep, philosophical competition” to build the metaverse, suggesting the two tech giants are ready to butt heads in selling hardware for augmented and virtual reality.
The Meta CEO told employees earlier this month that they were competing with Apple to determine “what direction the internet should go in,” according to a recording of his comments during an internal all-hands meeting obtained by The Verge. He said that Meta would position itself as the more open, cheaper alternative to Apple, which is expected to announce its first AR headset as soon as later this year.
“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,” Zuckerberg said of the brooding rivalry. “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.”
Since rebranding Facebook’s company name to Meta, Zuckerberg has been pushing for the concept of interoperability for the metaverse, or what he sees as the next major chapter of computing after mobile phones. Meta recently helped stand up the Metaverse Open Standards Group with Microsoft, Epic Games, and others. The idea is to spur the creation of open protocols that will let people easily move through future immersive, 3D worlds with their virtual goods.
Apple is absent from the group, which Zuckerberg called out as not surprising in his comments to employees. He explained how Apple’s approach of building hardware and software it tightly controls had worked well with the iPhone, but that for the metaverse, “it’s not really clear upfront whether an open or closed ecosystem is going to be better.”
While CEO Tim Cook has been upfront about the company’s interest in AR as a category, Apple has been characteristically silent about its unannounced hardware plans. Even still, all signs point to the imminent release of a high-end headset that blurs the full immersion of VR with AR experiences that overlay over the real world. Meta is planning to release a similar kind of headset later this year, codenamed Cambria, and is also readying its first true pair of AR glasses.
If VR and AR do take off like Zuckerberg hopes, it seems he wants to position Meta as the Android to Apple’s iOS. There is a parallel to draw already: Meta’s Quest headset already allows the side loading of apps that are not approved by Meta’s VR app store, similar to how Google’s Android allows for sideloading. And even though it just increased the price of the Quest by $100, Meta’s hardware is still mostly sold at a loss or breakeven.