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Zuckerberg wants more companies to build Meta-powered headsets

Meta (META) CEO Mark Zuckerberg is taking a page out of Google’s Android playbook by announcing on Monday that his company will make its Meta Horizon operating system for AR/VR headsets open source. The move means that third-party firms will now be able to use Meta Horizon as the software backbone for their own headsets.

Zuckerberg announced the move via Instagram, saying that the next age of computing should be powered by an open software model.

“Our goal is to make it so that the open model defines the next generation of computing again with the metaverse, glasses and headsets,” said Zuckerberg. “So that’s why we're releasing our operating system so that more companies can build different things on it.”

Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Android operating system is considered an open software model because it allows users to install third-party apps, albeit through a convoluted and annoying process. Windows PCs and Apple’s (AAPL) Macs also offer open software models, letting you download and install any apps you’d like.

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Apple’s iPhone, iPad, Watch, and Vision Pro, however, are closed, meaning you can only install software from Apple’s App Store. It’s worth noting that Zuckerberg has a long-running distaste for Apple and its closed software model. The CEO has repeatedly criticized the company for not allowing certain app features on the iPhone and introducing privacy options that cut off Meta’s ability to capture user data.

A MetaQuest 3 is seen on display during the Meta Connect Developer Conference at Meta's headquarters in Menlo Park, California on September 27, 2023. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
A MetaQuest 3 is seen on display during the Meta Connect Developer Conference at Meta's headquarters in Menlo Park, California on Sept. 27, 2023. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images) (JOSH EDELSON via Getty Images)

Zuckerberg said Meta is already working with ASUS, Lenovo, and Microsoft (MSFT) on plans for future headsets, with more companies to follow. Though, he also pointed out that it will likely take a few years for the headsets to hit the market.

The plan, so far, seems to be for Meta’s partners to develop headsets for specific use cases. Meta currently offers its Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest 3, Meta Quest Pro, and Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses.

In his Instagram post, Zuckerberg pointed to an example of a lightweight headset that pairs to a computer on your desk dedicated to productivity work, while another could focus on watching movies and videos and be outfitted with high-resolution OLED displays.

He also touched on ideas for fitness-focused headsets built with lightweight, sweat-wicking materials, as well as an Xbox-style headset that connects to Microsoft’s Game Pass service and a controller to let gamers play anywhere they want.

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Subscribe to the Yahoo Finance Tech newsletter. (Yahoo Finance)

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a company try to build out an AR/VR ecosystem with third-party manufacturing partners. Microsoft also attempted to get its now-defunct Windows Mixed Reality platform off the ground with manufacturing partners like ASUS, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung building headsets powered by the software.

The headsets never caught on, though, and Microsoft is now set to remove the platform entirely from the next big Windows 11 update.

The AR/VR headset market is still a relatively niche technology segment, even among teens. According to Piper Sandler’s most recent Taking Stock with Teens survey, 33% of teens surveyed own a VR device, but only 4% use it on a daily basis. Another 13% said they use their headsets weekly, while a whopping 56% said they seldom use them. What’s more, 32% of teens said they aren’t interested in and have no plans to buy headsets.

Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoofinance.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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