Meta (META) shares sank this week after its disappointing third-quarter earnings report and as the company’s pivot into the metaverse is attracting increasingly negative sentiment.
In the year since Facebook switched to Meta, the company has spent billions in investment in its metaverse plans. This investment has not yet paid off. For example, the division that oversees the company’s efforts, Reality Labs, has been losing money, posting a loss of $3.7 billion in the last quarter alone.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg told analysts this week that he expects those losses to continue on an annual basis. However, with the company’s stock taking a hit, this month Zuckerberg began touting something unexpected as a huge opportunity. He says the future of work may lie in the metaverse and through the company’s latest virtual reality headset, the Meta Quest Pro.
“Working in the metaverse is an important topic for Quest Pro,” Zuckerberg told analysts on the company’s earnings call on Wednesday. “200 million people get new PCs every year, most of them for work. Our goal with the Quest Pro suite over the next several years is to enable more and more of these people to do their work in virtual and mixed reality, ultimately better than they can on PCs” .
This month at Meta Connect, the company highlighted its new partnership with enterprise technology giant Microsoft (MSFT) and professional services giant Accenture (ACN). It’s an amazing angle. After all, thinking about the Meta still conjures up Facebook profile pictures or perhaps a VR headset we usually associate with gaming.
However, Laura Martin, senior analyst at Needham, said there is a lot about the future of the labor movement that makes sense. Entering the future of work, Martin told Yahoo Finance, “doubles the total market that can be addressed.” She added that the company’s new focus on mixed reality is also an “intelligent hub” associated with the newly forged Microsoft and Accenture partnerships.
“My gut feeling is that the pivot toward mixed reality is being communicated because Microsoft and Accenture, who think it’s most likely to succeed,” she said.
There is definitely a precedent there for a metaverse business conversation. For example, this year Autodesk (ADSK) acquired The Wild, an XR platform designed specifically for architecture and construction professionals. There is also a world of startups that includes companies like Virbela, which are specifically bringing virtual reality to professional and educational environments.
For metaverse experts, there’s a Meta chance of something – with caveats. Adam Voss and Josh Rush, co-founders of the VR platform Surreal, believe that all companies will eventually have some kind of metaverse presence, but not all workflows or workouts will be appropriate for this 3D world.
“We believe every company will eventually have a metaverse website,” Rush said. “This website is going to be a 3D social channel in which you can, for example, manage sharing events or their offices virtually… There is also, of course, a lot that you don’t want to replicate in the metaverse, because you need that hands-on experience.”
Voss said HR could be one example of work that can make room for the interview “from a brand perspective, because you’re hiring for the best talent.”
Voss and Rush are likely right, and work applications in the metaverse will become more prevalent, according to Forrester vice president and lead analyst JP gownder. He said it’s unclear when that will happen – and whether it will come in time for Meta to reap the benefits.
“Metaverse business at the end of the day is going to be really important, but is it going to take two years? 10 years? That will be the challenge,” said Thubder.
Beyond the crunch of time, the company’s push towards action oriented business has other problems. Oscar Matson, founder and CEO of Startup Allwhere, which provides technology-based tools, equipment, and services to the company’s workforce, said reports that Meta employees aren’t interested in using the company’s VR products should pause us.
“The future of work is about having people have a say in how and where they want to do their best work,” said Mattson, one of WeWork’s early adopters. “For me, I think the future of work is about focusing on improving the reality we currently live in, rather than creating an alien version.”
Nor is it sold on the Meta headphones as being a key to future working environments in the long term – certainly not in the near term.
Adam Riggs, former president of Shutterstock (SSTK) and current CEO of online workspace platform Frameable Spaces, said in the near term, workplace virtual reality collectively is not viable.
“Currently, depending on what is available now or in the near future, virtual reality is not a serious, comprehensive or sustainable way to improve the performance of a remote or hybrid team,” he said. “Exceptions to this are specialized training applications, but for general office applications, virtual reality is not a viable path to better results.”
Perhaps Mattson expressed one thing we can all agree on: “The legless torso is not the future of work.”
Allie Garfinkle is a senior technical reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at Tweet embed.
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