As we slowly begin to accept that yes, Facebook really did spend $2 billion on some stupid piece of virtual reality headgear that most of us didn’t even know existed, our attention turns to why on earth it would have done such a thing.
Two billion dollars. For Oculus VR, the so-called leader of virtual reality technology which created a groundswell of excitement when it landed on Kickstarter back in 2012, smashing it’s $250,000 goal by raising just over $2.4 million. At the time, gamers especially were delirious with the idea of VR gaming in their own homes – even though virtual reality has been around for eons in the arcades, it’s yet to become something you can enjoy from the comfort of your living room. Oculus was designed to cross that bridge, with the main focus of its Kickstarter campaign being centered on gaming.
But is that really Facebook’s chief concern? Whilst there might be some Facebook apps and games that do take advantage of Oculus’ technology at some point in the future, Mark Zuckerberg’s blog post announcing the deal was also quite revealing:
“We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we’re in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.”
Facebook struggled for a long time to evolve its core experience to mobile from desktop, and it was only last year that it really learned how to monetize on these devices. But now it’s 110 percent focused on mobile, it’s become very good on it, offering an excellent experience on both Android and iOS phones alike. Facebook’s also been busy with acquisitions, snatching up massively popular apps like WhatsApp and Instagram to expand its mobile presence.
Facebook is doing just fine in the mobile arena despite it’s slow start, and now it doesn’t want to be caught short again. Hence Zuckerberg and co. are busily looking around and asking themselves, “what comes next?”, in the same way that Google is doing with things like its driverless cars, Nest, robots and so on.
That’s why on the face of it, the Oculus acquisition seems a bit of a head-scratcher. Will its VR technology help Facebook to sell more ads? Can it entice more people to sign up to its service?
Mobile is no longer the next big thing
Unlikely, but that’s not the point. The point is that mobile is no longer the next big thing, it’s the current big thing and the world’s biggest tech firms are looking beyond that because they don’t want to be left behind. And they’re willing to gamble billions of dollars to ensure they have a presence in whatever takes off next.
And that’s what this is. A gamble. Facebook doesn’t know if virtual reality will be the next big thing, or if it’ll be flying drones, smartwatches, edible tech or something else nobody’s even thought of yet. But when it does find out, you can bet your house on it that Facebook will already have a substantial presence in whatever the hell it is.