Meta says that even though third-parties will be making headsets with Quest OS (now called Horizon OS) the company will continue to develop its line of Quest headsets.

Meta made a huge announcement today, saying that the Quest operating system, rebranded to Meta Horizon OS, would be the software basis of new headsets built by third parties like Asus and Lenovo.

With that news came two big questions:

  • Will Meta continue making its own Quest headsets?
  • Will Horizon OS be open to anyone, or only select partners?

Meta tells Road to VR that it will indeed continue building its own hardware, even as third-party Horizon OS headsets come to market.

“Meta will continue to push the boundaries of mixed reality device capabilities through our own Quest portfolio,” a Meta spokesperson said.

That aligns with the branding decisions the company has made around this announcement. The Quest OS is becoming Horizon OS and the Quest Store is becoming the Horizon Store. Otherwise it would be strange for the Quest OS to run on Quest headsets and other headsets.

Indeed, Quest is being positioned as Meta’s line of headsets, while ‘Horizon’ is being positioned as the software platform overall. Previously ‘Quest’ was essentially used for both the headsets and the platform.

But won’t that mean Meta will be competing with its own hardware partners? Well, yes… but for now it seems the company imagines there’s enough room for specialized headsets from its partners—like different headsets for gaming, exercise, or work—without too much overlap.

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Meta also confirmed to Road to VR that Meta Horizon OS is only being made available to select partners, at least for now. That means only those who get specific permission from Meta can use the OS.

Although Meta has said it wants to be the ‘Android of XR’, the decision to make Horizon OS available only to select partners flies in the face of the Android Open Source Project, which is truly open source and available for anyone to use, for free (though it doesn’t include some of Google’s key services like the Play Store). This is ironic, of course, because Meta’s Horizon OS itself is based on the open source version of Android.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • impurekind

    I’m not entirely convinced by this move yet, but we’ll see how it plays out.

    It could be the next Windows or Android moment, which would on net probably be a good thing for VR, so long as a few of the headset makers actually create genuinely great headsets to go alongside this open operating system of course.

    Or it could like the next 3DO or whatever, were all we end up with now is a bunch of crappy headsets crowding the market with junk, all using what is currently not that great an operating system and user experience in the grand scheme of things–if we’re just being honest here–which is the very last thing I want.

    I really hope Meta does indeed continue to release some of the best VR headsets on the market going forward to fully support its OS. Because, without that kind of guide for everyone else to follow and bar for everyone else to aspire to reach, as well as Apple doing its extremely high quality of headset and walled garden approach, I fear for the future of VR that doesn’t have the Apple brand on it.

    :-o

    • ApocalypseShadow

      crowding the market…

      This is the correct answer. They hope to flood the market with headsets to try to gain absolute control. They know Apple and Google are their main threats even though Apple really doesn’t care about Facebook’s attacks or their hardware. Sony could easily be a threat as a hardware juggernaut. But they concentrate more on their own console hardware and supported games than most of their side projects. And, only recently made a stand alone headset but it’s targeting creators than playing games with it.

      But by gaining full control and being the defacto standard, developers would have no other choice but to support the standard. It’s a direct strategy of creating a Monopoly. Besides their very low predatory pricing. Quest 3 is a great headset with much potential if it didn’t have the umbilical cord of Quest 2 holding it back. The truth is what it is. Facebook wants the the market to themselves.

      Microsoft tried this tactic on PC with all their headsets made by other manufacturers. But Microsoft didn’t support any of those headsets with actual games to push their agenda. They didn’t purchase exclusives for those headsets and never spent the money in marketing to sell them. And why use their app store or buy their hardware when Steam was killing them with games and tons of hardware choices? Microsoft failed but also didn’t try hard enough being worth almost 3 TRILLION.

      Facebook has a better chance as they have supported their own hardware, purchased exclusives and has even dug a huge whole monetarily to push the Quest platform. I hope those billions in losses is worth it to them.

      • NL_VR

        The Company is now called Meta not Facebook.
        Facebook is just the social plattform in the “family of apps” section.

  • Blaexe

    They will continue making Quests headsets as long as they have to. Someone has to provide the R&D needed – and Meta is the only one doing that. With Apple and Google coming into the race it’s more important than ever.

    Maybe in 10 or 15 years the tech will have matured enough so that they can concentrate on only providing the platform.

    • Cl

      Wonder why google did the opposite. Started off with just the platform and then later started making phones and still do.

      • Anonymous

        Because phones are profitable, with life cycle of only couple years, and crazy margins that VR headset can’t have. Also building your own hardware allows you to dictate the features you want to push to users.

        VR is different in that people treat it like a console (or “spatial PC” at best) and has a much longer life cycle. The designs are also much more complex than phones and theoretically the Quest 2 should have been sold for like $700+ to be profitable on HW alone, but they cannot.

        • ViRGiN

          Phone sales have slowned down, there is no point upgrading phone for the past few years. I’d argue people are more willing to upgrade headset assuming the next iteration brings real changes. Going from 50 mpix to 100 mpix, or 60 to 120 hz display on phone literally does not change anything.
          I myself am on flagship Samsung from 2017, and there hasn’t been anything worthy added since that model.

          • Blaexe

            Phones still have big margins because they’re extremely important to people – so they will pay accordingly.

            It’s almost the opposite for XR: You have to convince people to get them. And therefore they have to be as cheap as possible.

            It doesn’t matter if the people actively using XR are willing to upgrade if there are only ~10m of them because the development needed is so expensive. First and foremost the market needs to grow significantly.

          • Nevets

            Exactly. The upgrade market is a tiny enthusiast market.

          • Nevets

            I agree that phones have largely plateaued but if you want to treat yourself to some great functional new technology mobile then get yourself a Fold 5. If the price puts you off you can get good deals on as new refurbished models, pretty much half price.

          • ViRGiN

            I’ve seen some earlier gens of the Fold, nice, interesting, but ultimatetly heavy. I’d actually like a flagship hardware, in old 4 inch+ form factor. Sadly there aren’t really any options.

  • STL

    There is no margin on hardware, there is only margin on software.

    • XRC

      There is margin on hardware when not sold at cost.

      But Meta’s “console like” approach has heavily skewed the market as only platform owners can sell hardware this way (recouping through software sales and data harvesting)

      For third party devices they have to make profit per unit sold otherwise it’s a slow death

    • Guest

      This is why companies like Samsung are dead and with no future. When they lost the software/platform war with Google 15 years ago, that sealed their fate.

  • David Glenn

    More stuff to add to the confusion of developers that what to make games for Quest, I guess! I hope it is not.

    • perVRt

      Yeah, with this Ho OS they’re pimping they now say they wanna re-review apps when they scale to more customers!

  • Naruto Uzumaki

    100% they will go bankrupt they don’t t make anything they don’t t make the games that make money the headsets are trash they put. The battery in the front they don’t make the chips they don’t make the battery the os is bassed on free version of android pimax a ccompany 200 smaller than meta makes more headsets and better in terms of specs than meta

    • Anonymous

      5 cent army needs to do better.

    • ViRGiN

      i mean, you could have bought valve index 5 years ago and get high five from fellow basement dwellers who believe it’s the best headset to date

    • Leisure Suit Barry

      They don’t make the games that make the money but they still take a 30% cut.

      Valve don’t make the games that make money, but Steam still makes a ton of money by taking a cut of all games sold.

      • STL

        Steam is the real thing, when it comes to VR. “One ring to bind them all…”

    • ShaneMcGrath

      Pimax is better, But too expensive for mainstream VR!
      In my country you are looking at 2.5x the price of the Quest 3, Quest 3 was already expensive.

  • Meta played the Android card against Google itself

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      It’s more Meta playing the AndroidXR card against Google. Just like Meta’s Horizon OS, Google’s recently announced AndroidXR extension isn’t free, but bound to Google Play services and Play store. While you can release a Google free Android phone or smart TV box, there will be no Google free AndroidXR HMDs or Meta free Horizon OS HMDs.

      Both released heavily tethered XR frameworks sitting on top of free Android, in an attempt to pull HMD manufacturers to their side. Not an easy undertaking considering the small market, hardware not being profitable and both of them grabbing all the software revenue and control over the valuable user data. Their best hope is probably Lenovo, Samsung and others feeling pressured to quickly react to Apple’s Vision Pro, and therefore willing to accept an unfavorable deal.

      A truly open option with no strings attached as Android offered is still missing. The best bet for this could be Qualcomm/Goertek, who already have a complete Android/OpenXR based OS/XR framework they offer to companies like Pico. And because Qualcomm and Goertek actually make money from XR hardware, they don’t have to force others to use their store and user management.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Probably the best decision they took in a long-time. Their OS is somewhat developed (although not greatly optimized) but the market is not, and they probably realized that such a paradigm shifting technology cannot be developed at slug pace with proprietary tech by one company like they have for 10 years now. I’m still waiting on that supposed Google x Samsung x Qualcomm headset that seems to have vanished (not that Google produced anything valuable anymore anyways).

  • xyzs

    That was the best decision. I was saying they should do exactly that for years.

    That’s a big finger to Android XR