Fb boss Mark Zuckerberg is on a quest to kill the smartphone. Apple and Google beat the billionaire social media magnate to creating the smartphone — the dominant platform underpinning the Fb community.

When Zuckerberg based Fb in 2004, we didn’t have Android or iOS, however the cellular phone market was nicely established — assume Blackberry, Motorola, and Nokia.

“Because of that, Facebook hasn’t really been involved in designing the operating systems and phones. Companies like Google and Apple have done that instead. And that in some cases meant we haven’t been able to design the experiences that we hoped to deliver for our community,” Zuckerberg stated throughout a latest court docket case between sport maker ZeniMax and Oculus, the virtual reality (VR) startup Fb purchased for $2 billion in 2014.


Fb has constructed its $450 billion enterprise upon smartphone platforms which might be largely owned by Apple and Google — greater than half of its users will only sign up from a cellular device. That uncomfortable fact is why Fb is staking its future on VR and augmented reality (AR) — tech which overlays digital imagery onto the true world.

On the firm’s annual developer convention in April this 12 months, Zuckerberg unveiled the Camera Effects Platform, which lets outdoors builders create AR results for the Fb app’s digital camera, corresponding to sharks swimming within the milk of a bowl of cereal. That will, in principle, permit Fb to host the following app craze, just like the AR sport Pokémon Go. However Zuckerberg’s ambition is far wider.

On the convention, he envisioned a pair of Fb-powered good glasses that might display info on the objects we take a look at, corresponding to the price of a bottle of wine. “Think about how many of the things around us [that] don’t actually need to be physical,” Zuckerberg stated in a recent interview. “Instead of a $500 TV sitting in front of us, what’s to keep us from one day having it be a $1 app?”

Fb’s AR push may very well be prompted by rising competitors for user consideration, which retains the promoting flowing. Simply hours earlier than Fb’s developer convention, Snapchat announced a serious VR initiative: 3D lenses to be used inside its messaging app. Snapchat additionally has Spectacles, glasses for customers to report video from. It may be prompted by a need to not miss out on the following large tech surge after smartphones.

Snapchat’s Spectacles

That’s the reason Fb has ploughed billions into VR by means of Oculus, maker of the Rift headset, and why Fb is constructing its personal AR hardware.

If his bearish bets repay, Fb might create the following main app ecosystem, like Apple’s App Retailer, which helps guarantee customers hold shopping for Apple’s smartphones and tablets annually. Fb might management the platform upon which future AR hardware is constructed, though the corporate will face fierce competitors from others who’re making an attempt to make AR a reality.

Microsoft has invested aggressively within the know-how: it unveiled its HoloLens AR headset two years in the past. Alex Kipman, head of HoloLens, said recently that the demise of the smartphone was a “natural conclusion” of AR and related applied sciences. However there have been loads of AR flops thus far — Google’s hyped try to create digital specs, often known as Google Glass, being essentially the most spectacular failure.

Fb, too, has loads of failed improvements consigned to the trash can. In 2012, the corporate created the App Middle, a hub on its social community for customers to find apps created by third events and play them straight on the Fb desktop web site. As customers transitioned to smartphones, the App Centre fizzled out.

A 12 months later, Fb tried once more to tackle Apple and Google, this time with a branded smartphone, referred to as Fb Dwelling. In an embarrassing misstep for the corporate, the devices have been finally deserted, after promoting poorly.

It might appear, then, that Fb’s gamble on AR is a dangerous one, provided that widespread shopper adoption of AR may very well be a number of years away. Nonetheless, the true risk to Zuckerberg’s empire is that, if it doesn’t get forward of the present tech wave, it dangers lacking the prospect to be the primary to create the main AR platform, similar to it did with the smartphone. Surf’s up.

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