Microsoft is bringing some and then some of its proven products to Meta’s Oculus’ Quest virtual reality headsets in a new partnership announced by the two companies at Meta Connect 2022.
The two tech giants announced the renewed partnership during Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote at Meta Connect 2022, where Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a surprise appearance. As such, expect multiple 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, with the chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+.
Tech watchers might be surprised by the Microsoft-Meta partnership given that the former was vying for a slice of the highly anticipated and in-development metaverse domain by announcing plans to acquire Activision Blizzardhis biggest contract ever, earlier this year.
The $68.7 billion acquisition has met with resistance, particularly from the British watchdog Competition and Markets Authority and the European Commission. The latter has would have even issued to game developers, publishers and distributors a questionnaire with nearly 100 questions that seek their opinions on whether the deal would harm Microsoft’s 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 advantage of Meta is that it is 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 has yet to find a significant number of takers.
Learn more: Interoperability: why the metaverse needs to be cloud-native
Specifically, the Microsoft-Meta partnership will involve the following:
- Microsoft Teams integration with Meta’s Oculus Quest devices for immersive virtual meetings. The integration will encompass hardware support for Quest by Mesh for Teams for virtual meeting experiences based on virtual avatars and the ability to join Teams meetings directly from Horizon work rooms.
- Windows 365 integration with Quest. Microsoft’s browser-based Cloud PC subscription service, Windows 365, is now extended to virtual reality. Custom apps, content, and settings in Windows 365 will be available on Quest.
- Microsoft 365 integration with Quest devices. Includes access to interactive content in Microsoft 365 productivity apps like Word, Outlook, Excel, and more in the Quest VR environment. Microsoft 365 Apps will take advantage of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and will be rendered in 2D.
- Microsoft Intune and Azure Active Directory integration with Quest devices (Quest Pro and Quest 2) for device management and security as part of the Quest for Business subscription.
At some point, the two companies will bring Xbox Cloud Gaming to the Meta Quest Store to enable Xbox game streaming on phones, tablets, PCs, select smart TVs, and the Meta Quest platform.
Speaking to Ben Thompson at Stratchery in an interview with Nadella, Zuckerberg said:
“Overall, I think it’s a very natural partnership where I think our strategic interests are pretty aligned, and a lot of the things that we care about most like consumer experiences and meaning of expression and the ability to do maybe the version of yourself that you want to express the most and then being able to hang out with your friends is the things that we care about the most and then we really want making sure we have the best tools for the job out there.”
Microsoft maintains a presence in AR/VR through HoloLens and won a contract with the US military 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 $22 billion, has faced delays.
Microsoft’s woes were exacerbated when the co-creator and maintainer of HoloLens Alex Kipman resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment by colleagues.
According to a Business Insider report, build quality and underlying software raise further concerns as the device failed four out of six benchmark tests. “The devices would have killed us,” an anonymous tester told Insider, citing an excerpt from the US military’s report to Microsoft.
“Obviously a lot of what we’re doing in Mixed Reality has been informed by what we’ve been doing in HoloLens and what we’re seeing there, especially since we’ve focused it very quickly after its initial launch on enterprise and business use cases and we learned a lot,” Nadella told Thompson alongside Zuckerberg.
“But the way I approach it, Ben, is I like to separate, ‘What’s the system, what’s 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 app experiences in particular to be available on all platforms, that’s very central to our strategy.
On the other hand, Meta has done relatively better with Oculus Quest devices, but has yet to see commercial success. In the second quarter of 2022, Meta gained $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 help the social networking company turned metaverse commercially. dwindling fortunes.
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