The two tech behemoths announced the renewed partnership during Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote speech at Meta Connect 2022 where Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a surprise appearance.
Microsoft is bringing a couple of its time-tested products, and then some, to Meta’s Oculus’ Quest virtual-reality headsets under a new partnership the two companies announced at Meta Connect 2022.
The two tech behemoths announced the renewed partnership during Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote speech at Meta Connect 2022, where Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a surprise appearance. As such, expect several Microsoft content and products such as Teams, Windows, Office, and Xbox Cloud Gaming to be available for the Meta Quest 2 and the new Meta Quest Pro, unveiled at the same event, featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ chipset.
Tech watchers could be taken aback by the Microsoft-Meta partnership considering the former was vying for a slice of the highly-anticipated and under-development metaverse domain by announcing plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, its biggest deal ever, earlier this year.
The $68.7 billion acquisition has met resistance, particularly from the U.K. watchdog Competition and Markets Authority and the European Commission. The latter has reportedly even issued to game developers, publishers, and distributors, a questionnaire featuring nearly 100 questions that seek their opinions on whether the deal would be detrimental to Microsoft’s gaming competitors such as Sony, Tencent, and others.
While the jury is out on that end, Microsoft is wasting no time developing new VR-based experiences for its users. The upside for Meta is that its ambitious metaverse plans will find an initial base with hundreds of millions of individual and enterprise users.
For context, Teams alone has 270 million monthly active users, while Meta’s Horizon Workrooms hasn’t found a significant number of takers yet.
See More: Interoperability: Why the Metaverse Needs to be Cloud-native
Specifically, the Microsoft-Meta partnership will entail the following:
At some point down the line, the two companies will bring Xbox Cloud Gaming to Meta Quest Store to enable streaming of Xbox games on phones, tablets, PCs, select smart TVs, and the Meta Quest platform.
Speaking with Ben Thompson at Stratchery in an interview accompanied by Nadella, Zuckerberg said:
“Overall, I think that this is a very natural partnership where I think our strategic interests are pretty aligned, and a lot of the things that we care the most about like the consumer experiences and the sense of expression and the ability to maybe make the version of yourself that you want to express the most, and then be able to hang out with your friends, those are the things that we care about the most and then we just really want to make sure that we have the best work tools on there.”
Microsoft maintains a presence in AR/VR through HoloLens and famously bagged a U.S. army contract in 2021 for a modified version of the augmented reality device. Known as the Integrated Audio Visual System (IVAS) project, the contract, which could be valued at up to $22 billion, has suffered delays.
Microsoft’s woes were exacerbated when the HoloLens co-creator and lead Alex Kipman stepped down following allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment from colleagues.
According to a Business Insider report, the build quality and underlying software further raise concerns because the device failed four out of six evaluation tests. “The devices would have gotten us killed,” an unnamed tester told Insider quoting an excerpt from the U.S. Army’s report to Microsoft.
“Obviously a lot of what we are doing in Mixed Reality has been informed with what we have done in HoloLens and what we are seeing in terms there, especially since we focused it very quickly after its initial launch on the enterprise and the business use cases and we’ve learned a lot,” Nadella told Thompson alongside Zuckerberg.
“But the way I come at it, Ben, is that I like to separate out, “What is the system, what are the apps”? Of course, we want to bring the two things together where we can create magic, but at the same time, I also want our application experiences in particular to be available on all platforms, that’s very central to how our strategy is.”
On the other hand, Meta has fared relatively better with Oculus Quest devices but is yet to taste commercial success. In Q2 2022, Meta earned $452 million from Reality Labs, the division responsible for AR/VR and metaverse development, against a loss of $2.806 billion. It remains to be seen whether the partnership with Microsoft will commercially help the social networking-turned-metaverse company’s diminishing fortunes.
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Asst. Editor, Spiceworks Ziff Davis
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