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Meta reportedly abandons plans to develop its own AR/VR OS, defers to a modded version of Android instead

The news: Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has reportedly pulled the plug on efforts to develop a proprietary AR/VR OS ostensibly to power its metaverse mixed-reality platform.

More on this: A report from The Information reveals Meta had aspired to develop an OS to run the Horizon Worlds VR app from the ground up but opted to continue using a modified version of Google’s Android OS. Meta’s pivot to the metaverse is hinged on the company’s Oculus hardware and also on its AR/VR platform, which currently works through connected smartphones.

  • The project, initially called XROS, had been underway for years and “involved hundreds of employees” before the company suddenly and unexpectedly pulled the plug.
  • By defaulting to an Android-based operating system, Meta can quickly develop and launch apps and experiences within a framework that’s close to an industry standard.
  • Meta’s Oculus owns the consumer VR hardware space. Oculus accounted for 53.5% of extended reality headset shipment share worldwide in 2020, per Counterpoint. 
  • Meta’s VP of Reality Labs Engineering Gabriel Aul tweeted a response to the report, stating “we’re still working on a highly specialized OS for our devices—we remain very much invested in this work and continue to dedicate the resources necessary to build this.”

Why this could backfire: Facebook’s entire rationale for pivoting to Meta and the metaverse was to create its own platform separate from the controls and rules of the internet. 

  • Relying on Android as the basis for its mixed-reality OS could be a missed opportunity to cohesively develop software that works seamlessly with Oculus hardware and apps.
  • Big Tech rivals, like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, seeking to compete in the XR space will likely pursue a whole-widget approach—creating their own OS, hardware, and applications—which could provide a better experience than Meta’s Android-dependent solution.