According to a report from The Information, Google and Meta held a meeting late last year wherein the two companies discussed the possibility of bringing Android XR to Meta headsets. While it’s said Meta rejected the partnership, which would potentially allow Quest headsets to run standard Android apps, Google is allegedly still open to the idea.

Quest already runs an open-source version of Android, although Meta’s headsets don’t have the sort of access to standard Android apps built for mobile devices like Apple Vision Pro does with content developed for iPhone, which boasts over 1.5 million iOS apps in addition to over 1,000 native Vision Pro native apps.

Such a deal would make Meta more competitive with Apple in the near-term by allowing users wider access to Android apps not built for XR, however it would require the company to give up a good deal of control over its platform.

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The Information maintains a such a partnership may stop Meta from “own[ing] the next computational platform for AR, VR and mixed reality,” which would also involve Meta contributing to the development of Android XR instead of more directly controlling its platform like it does today.

And as with all things Android, Google has has more than just a potential Meta partnership in mind, as it’s expected the company wants Android XR to fill the same role for XR headsets as its mobile operating system does for smartphones. It needs external hardware partners to do this though, since the company has shuttered a number of recent XR hardware projects in addition to entirely giving up on Google Daydream platform in 2019.

To boot, Samsung announced early last year it was working with Qualcomm and Google on its own headset, which means we can expect some form of Android XR there first. Additionally, it was reported last summer that South Korean tech giant delayed the still unnamed XR headset to make it more competitive with Vision Pro.

Meanwhile, Meta has partnered with LG to ostensibly manufacture the next wave of Quest headsets, which reportedly could be both a high-end Quest Pro 2 as well as a cheaper headset.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • ViRGiN

    Article behind paywall.
    “rejected” might be misleading; who knows what Google asked for in exchange?

  • another juan

    Admitedly, it wouldn’t make much sense for Meta to drop its OS in favor of Google’s “Android XR” at this point. Would that even be compatible with the current Quest library?

    • ViRGiN

      Android to Android should be fairly simple

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      There is no need to drop anything, Android XR is an extension of the existing Android. Hopefully it will be OpenXR compliant, so it would be very similar to Meta’s API, making compatibility rather trivial.

      The issue is that Android XR is tied to Google Play services, and Google Play services come with license agreements that shove all/most of the revenue from app sales and subscriptions to Google. Meta simply doesn’t have enough leverage to negotiate a revenue split that would be favorable for them. Vendors can use the Android OS without anything requiring Google Play services, but that means no access to Play store apps or any Google apps like Maps or YouTube, and Android XR will be similar.

      • XRC

        This report on The Register was mind boggling; Google handsomely pay Apple to ensure Google search is prominent on Apple devices (this is part of a DOJ anti trust action):

        “The report states: “We estimate that the ISA is worth $18B-20B in annual payments from Google to Apple, accounting for 14-16 percent of Apple’s annual operating profits.”

  • Sven Viking

    Likely each would want more of the control and/or money than the other would accept.

    • Sven Viking

      (P.S. According to Boz on Twitter, Meta were willing to let Google keep their full percentage on 2D apps if they brought Play Store to Quest, though.)

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        How very generous, considering that Meta desperately needs access to apps beyond games to compete with AVP and the Samsung/Google HMD, and everybody expects that over time the majority of apps running on XR HMDs will be native XR apps, with 2D apps just used as a transition until developers have caught up.

        That suggestion probably produced a loud chuckle from Google’s lawyers, pointing out their 100% Play store or nothing “my way or the highway” policy they successfully pushed onto pretty much every Android phone maker outside of China, where the Play store isn’t available, with Amazon being the only successful rebel with their own independent store. And all of these sell about a billion Android phones per year, compared to Meta selling ~25mn Quest total, with ~3bn active Android users compared to less than 10mn active Quest users. Meta has no leverage against Google whatsoever.

        • Alex

          A quick reminder that Instagram (Store) has 2.5B users and Facebook at 3B. So maybe Meta is ok with 2D apps on Quest.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    How surprising that Meta doesn’t want to cooperate with Google for XR, when Google demands the installation of Google apps for access to the Play store from phone manufacturers, and of course that no other app stores are allowed on the device. So far Meta pumped USD 50bn into XR to get rid of Google and Apple as platform owners implying a fee on everything Meta sells.

    And while Google dropped Daydream, they never left XR. ARCore runs on most phones with Android 7 and higher, similar to Apple’s ARKit running on everything since iPhone 6, the experience of which no doubt contributed to the rock solid tracking on AVP. Both combined have literally billions of AR devices in the field, with lots of data feeding back to Google and Apple about usage and problems.

    AVP and whatever Samsung/Google are currently cooking up aren’t focused on AR yet, which will require a lot more object recognition and therefore a lot more processing power than Apple’s current “spatial iPad” approach. But in the long run the platform owners of the current mobile duopoly have a significant advantage over Meta’s “from scratch” XR development that goes beyond just having ginormous user bases and 2D app libraries.

  • ApocalypseShadow

    We’ll see how this develops over time in if that was a bad decision. But I think the idea of wanting control of your platform, but not providing your own OS but canceling it, not making apps for your own device to compete against Apple and Google, is possibly going to hurt them in the long run.

    Samsung just showed their device that has full Google integration. No worrying about begging developers to make apps. Thousands upon thousands of apps will be capable of running on their headset day one. The article should eventually hit here real soon. The headset has face tracking, eye tracking, hand tracking, controller tracking, voice control, 4K displays, etc. With some type of finger ring similar to Sony’s stand alone headset.

    And if Samsung’s headset has full Google integration, there’s a possibility that their headset could have full Chromebook computing capability. That right there would be a real step up to spacial computing over Apple and Facebook as it would be built in without a need of a laptop like Apple. Not saying their headset has it. But if it does, that would be a powerful advantage. Computing, productivity, AR and VR gaming, etc would put Samsung in the race with much potential.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      You must be an insider then, as nowhere, at this moment of writing, anything has been published about it.

      • ApocalypseShadow

        MWC 2024. You’ll eventually hear about it.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          Sadly seems te be a 2025 release. That’ll be very late if it still sports the same XR2 gen2 chip as the quest 3.

          • ApocalypseShadow

            This is true. It’s a long ways off. If I were them, and if I wanted to make a big splash, I’d have full integration of Google Play, Chromebook function built in, easy connection to the Galaxy phones, tablets, watches, etc, cellular call option besides AR and VR calls, AR and VR gaming and something like a virtual assistant that appears right there in your personal space as a physical entity that you can interact with in pass through or VR, get answers from and play games with. And you can change that assistants looks to fit your personal preference. It can read your text messages, email, and have future feature updates from teaching you cooking or reading a story.

            Crazy ideas but definitely possible. Facebook and Apple should do some of these things as well.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            haha, yeah, that would be really something, and probably not even that difficult as it’s only a 3d model that needs to be shown, just like any avatar in something like Horizon (but ofcourse with legs, haha, or not if you prefer something like a R2D2).

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      There is no single model for success. Apple is fully vertically integrated, builds devices running their own OS, provides apps like Final Cut or Logic Pro via their own app stores, content services like AppleTV+ and Apple Arcade, and now their own ARM chips. Microsoft sells an OS, the very important MS Office, services like the Azure cloud and Gamepass plus Surface laptops. Valve sells games that run mostly on Windows, pushed Linux when Microsoft’s UWP store seemed a threat, and now SteamOS (Linux) on their own Steam Deck hardware, while Steam Machines from hardware partners failed. Google provides Android for free, but binds partners wanting Google apps to their Play store. Samsung makes money selling hardware components to everyone, their own phones, tablets, smartwatches running Android and more. They had their own Tizen (Linux) OS for smartwatches/TVs etc., but went back to Android, because it wasn’t worth the hassle. Sony makes PlayStation hardware, games, has its own store, but the OS is an adapted FreeBSD, just like Meta uses an adapted Android. Nintendo uses something proprietary with part from FreeBSD and Linux.

      All of these companies are pretty successful, and cover a wide range of products, with some doing only hardware, some only software, some focusing on services, some doing everything. Success depends more on execution than approach.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    It makes sense for Meta not to support it, as their store is their main income to offset the losses of the hardware. Supporting Android XR would be a logical option if they made money off the hardwaresales, but they don’t.

    • Arno van Wingerde

      Ah.. but in that scenario they could allow Google for 2D apps to compete better with AVP. as it stands, Quest has lots of nice VR games, a few VR apps and good PCVR options. This is still no competition to Google and Apple…

  • Till Eulenspiegel

    It’s like Microsoft making DOS for IBM PC, in the long run Google will have full control like Android phones – as they put their XR OS in all the headsets in the market.

  • Well, of course they refused. Meta is doing all of this to escape the rules imposed on the stores by Google and Apple… it would make no sense to do a partnership that forces them into those rules again

    • Arno van Wingerde

      Clear, gut Thatchers means they have to start their own store. Perhaps they can offer some “1 step conversion” from existing Android apps, because given the tiny user base of Quest users, relative to Android users, no app developer is going to put effort into making it available for Quest…

      • MeowMix

        Meta did partner up with Microsoft to allow conversion of apps from PWA builder (progressive web apps); still requires work from the dev tho. But an official Android sdk to Quest sdk would probably work best.

    • JakeDunnegan

      Correct. Zuck has stated he wants what Google and Apple have – a base level app store that he can get that sweet, sweet, percentage of every sale in their app stores w/out having to do a dang thing.

      How would that happen if he joined up with either one of the other two?

  • xyzs

    I think Meta is right to refuse. That sounds too much like a deal that puts all the risk and efforts on Meta.

    However, Meta should be smarter instead of just saying no, and offer the exact same deal to other VR hardware markers.
    Making their OS available for other brands would kill any interest regarding Android XR and Meta would get easy incomes from the store when ran on external hardware.
    They should also open source their OS and the core apps except the store one, so that the OS benefit from many bug fixes and optimizations from external contributors. (Since the store remains a closed ecosystem, there is nothing to loose regarding the open sourcing of the OS, just like steam doesn’t care if the OS is open or not).

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Meta uses Android, which is already open source. You’re talking about their VR SDK, but that has been shifted to OpenXR. Which is why the Pico software library consists mostly of Quest ports: there is very little difference between the SDKs, and porting games developed with Unity basically requires a recompile. Meta has very efficient implementations of e.g. hand tracking that others may be interested in, but there isn’t a lot of proprietary tech in Meta’s products going beyond the freely available Android plus the OpenXR stack available to Goertek/Qualcomm HMD customers. What’s interesting to other manufacturers is the Quest games library and users base, and Meta won’t open these.

      Google can change Android and make these changes become the standard. If another company would adapt a non-Google Android version with a Meta-modified OpenXR stack instead, they’d now instead depend on Meta while being excluded from 2D Android apps on the Play store too, with VR app money going to Meta. Not exactly a winning move.

      And HTC had that idea a long time ago. Vive Wave launched in 2017 with 12 mostly Chinese hardware partners incl. Pico and Pimax as their open OS/SDK for mobile HMDs, directing customers to HTC’s app store. The number of Wave partners grew over time, and at least six companies released Wave HMDs.

      • xyzs

        Except, no-bo-dy wants chinese software except chinese, so Vive wave can succeed only in China…

        We all know Android is open source, and the Meta’s OS rely on it, hence is partially opensrouce too. But the custom drivers and the XR userspace is not, and I think it should. Yes the Chinese will use it and release their own store, but for occidental countries, everyone will rely on the official store, and that’s where money is.
        Meta can at least get improvements from asian developers since keeping their code closed would break the license Meta would choose. I know some would, because in this country, they have no respect for copyright, but it would be only marginal.
        Meta would get from it an OS that is more dominant, more potential customers, and more margins from external brands.

  • NL_VR

    The risk google cancel the whole thing after 2 years maybe was the reason