Mark Zuckerberg and his company, Meta, are smoked meat*. Now I don’t mean the company is fucked and they’re going to have to declare bankrupcy or anything like that. I just mean Mark and his Meta Quest VR headset have been sidelined by the Apple Vision Pro (please be mindful that long-term success for the Vision Pro is far from guaranteed). Zuck has been schooled. Apple has given a masterclass to Meta on how to properly launch a product. If this were the movie 8-Mile Apple is B-Rabbit and Meta is Papa Doc.
As I see it, there are two key reasons Apple has managed to get the tech world excited (and angry and confused and dismissive) about their “AR/VR”spacial computing” headset:
- They’ve done this before, repeatedly. The Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple Watch, Airpods, Apple TV. They know how to make beautiful hardware with great software. When Steve Jobs enveiled the iPhone in 2007 he quoted Alan Kay, “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”
- They have a fully-baked suite of operating systems: iOS (phone), iPad OS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and now, visionOS. With this full-baked suite of operating systems comes a library of hundreds of thousands of applications (at launch Apple is giving developers the ability to allow their iPad apps to be launchable on visionOS).
Meta had neither 1 nor 2 when they launched the Meta Quest (I’m not counting the Facebook Phone they launched in 2013). Zuck so desperately wants to own and control the computing platform(s) of the future. He knows how little control he has over Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Threads — mere apps among millions of other apps on Apple’s and Google’s platforms. Thus far he has overpromised and underdelivered with his vision of the Metaverse.
In June of 2023, while Meta was busy trying to convince everyone that their shitty, Nintendo Wii-level graphics were going to improve inside the Metaverse, Apple announced Vision Pro at WWDC23. Apple’s focus was not on pulling you out of your environment and into a virtual one, but to keep you grounded to where you were through the use of the highest resolution, pass-through displays ever used on a headset. Apple refers to it as spatial computing. You can see both virtual applications and games as well as the room you’re in and with the aid of a digital crown/dial(reminiscent of the Apple Watch crown), you can decide how much of the real world to make visible in your virtual environment.
When Meta Connect 2023 happened in September of that year — a mere 3 months after WWDC23! — I was both surprised and not surprised to see Zuck do a full 180 and emphasize Meta Quest’s skill at being an immersive computing platform (jump to 47:20 in the video). The Metaverse was treated like an ex-girlfriend. They mentioned it in passing, but it was no longer the star of the show. I was surprised at Zuck’s audacity in parroting out Apple’s spatial computing approach, but then I thought about it more and I said to myself, “Of course he did.” He doesn’t have any ideas of his own, at no good ones.
The only original product Zuck has ever made was the one he made with his Harvard roommates: Facebook. Ever since Facebook everything else has been an acquisition of something another group of tech bros made. Instagram? Bought. WhatsApp? Bought. What about Threads, you say? You mean the Twitter clone? Threads exists because of the crater Elon Musk created when he took a shit on Twitter. The jury is still out on whether Threads evolves into something unique. Right now it’s a good Twitter clone.
So Zuck is in a tough spot now because he doesn’t have good taste, and doesn’t have good ideas, and doesn’t have his own operating systems, and doesn’t have his own app ecosystem, and doesn’t sweat the details in software and hardware design, so he finds himself marching to the beat of Apple’s drum.
Mark Zuckerberg, smoked meat. Always and forever.
* Seriously, Zuck loves smoked meat. Go see for yourself.