But how long can such investments continue given the current circumstances? Despite all the expense and manpower, early versions of products like Worlds were met with derision; Like when Zuckerberg showed a remarkably nondescript screenshot of his own avatar, or when meta was forced to admit it doesn’t know how to track people’s legs.
First impressions of the Meta Quest Pro, a very expensive device that tries to reinvent the Quest 2 for work, weren’t great either.
Meta is making progress towards its goals, but slowly and while bleeding away a lot of money. It could be 10 years before we find out if there’s an audience for the kind of systems it’s developing, while Reality Labs loses around $14 billion each year and drags shares of Meta, which are expected to hit around 2022 by around 70 percent fell.
Putting money into extreme long-term bets when the stock is already falling isn’t great for investor relations. In a very public complaint, Brad Gerstner, chief executive of longtime meta-investor Altimeter, urged the company to limit Metaverse spending to no more than $5 billion per year.
“An estimated investment of over $100 billion in an unknown future is overwhelming and terrifying, even by Silicon Valley standards,” he wrote in an open letter in October.
There have also been various reports of unrest within Meta’s product development teams, suggesting that Zuckerberg’s vision for the Metaverse isn’t necessarily reflected across the company.
Insiders told The New York Times that some employees referred to Metaverse projects as “MMH” jobs, meaning “Make Mark Happy”; and that when Zuckerberg ordered all meetings to be held within Horizon, many employees had to scramble to acquire their own headsets and set up. A source also sent The edge internal memos in which meta executives wonder why more employees aren’t actively embracing the metaverse.
“If we don’t love it, then how can we expect our users to love it,” Vice President Vishal Shah asked in a memo.
More recently, programming legend John Carmack – who helped create the hit video game demise in the ’90s and joined Oculus as chief technology officer in 2013 – leaving the company with an internal note complaining that Meta was “grossly inefficient.”
It’s worth noting that despite the name change and investment, Reality Labs and the Metaverse aren’t Meta’s entire focus. It is still a very profitable company that has acquired or developed advanced skills in AI, 3D development, augmented and virtual reality. It could afford to keep Metaverse development out of the public eye for years and look elsewhere for shorter-term moneymakers, although that would certainly push its schedules even further back.
In the meantime, other companies will likely step in and begin laying the groundwork for what could one day be the Metaverse, even if it’s not what the Meta envisioned. Apple, for example, has a tip of launching some kind of headset in 2023 that could leverage its years of augmented reality development.
Microsoft is beginning to use meta-technology in its Enterprise suite to enable more immersive work-from-home experiences. And companies like Roblox and Epic continue to build entire worlds within video games that combine all sorts of other media with a persistent online virtual space, an approach that could easily be adapted for non-game purposes in the Metaverse.
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