Will Microsoft Beat Facebook to the Metaverse?

"When comparing Meta — formerly Facebook — and Microsoft's approaches to the metaverse, it's clear Microsoft has a much more grounded and realistic vision," argues an analyst at data analytics/consultancy company GlobalData: Meta is set to grab a large portion of the $51 billion revenues from VR that GlobalData expects will be generated by 2030. Facebook led the consumer VR headsets market in 2020 and registered 255 VR-related patents between 2016 and 2020. And, as Meta, the company also plans to launch an enterprise-grade headset in Q4 2021. However, VR hardware and software have not been widely adopted. This is attributable to several issues, including latency, nausea, high prices, privacy concerns, and a lack of compelling content. While technologies such as 5G, cloud services, and motion tracking should help to address latency and nausea issues, improving content and developing effective data privacy practices will be paramount for VR's success (more on data privacy in a moment). For these reasons VR is not yet ready to take on the task of the metaverse. Microsoft seems to have understood better than Meta how people actually use technology. All you need to use Mesh — Microsoft's so-called gateway to the metaverse — is your current smartphone or laptop. No clunky headsets or expensive tech setups are needed. With this approach, Microsoft is keeping its focus on available capabilities and enterprise applications over Meta's vision of total lifestyle adoption. Microsoft Teams also currently has over 145 million daily active users, whereas the total cumulative installed base of VR headsets is less than 17 million. From these numbers alone, Mesh for Microsoft Teams has a possible user base of more than eight times the number of users Meta could hope to reach with its VR headsets. Facebook's promises of protecting data's privacy in the metaverse "will not be enough to reassure most future users," the article argues. "Microsoft, on the other hand, is a market leader in data privacy and, when ranked by the 10 themes that matter most to the social media industry, is in second place overall, according to GlobalData's Social Media Thematic Scorecard. Meta is ranked 21st overall out of 35 companies on the scorecard, and its activity with regards to data privacy will be highly detrimental to its future performance." Besides new issues like hyper-personalized ads, the metaverse will still face the old problem of content moderation, the article suggests — only now spread across a massive scale. And the article ultimately argues that "The metaverse will suffer from the same issues that plague the current version of the internet unless the right actions are taken by those that end up with control..." Microsoft's better position as a future leader in the metaverse "comes with responsibilities, and Microsoft needs to be prepared to face them...."

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