Facebook announced yesterday via classic Mark Zuckerberg Facebook post that they will be acquiring Oculus VR, the leader in immersive, virtual reality technology for around $2 billion. Oculus, which began as a Kickstarter project, currently has released two Development Kits for their Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
The Oculus technology is truly fascinating and brings countless opportunities for gaming and visual technology. Where the $19 billion WhatsApp acquisition fit relatively nicely into Facebook's strategy, it is harder to see their vision for Oculus. Below are three of the main visions I and many others see for the acquisition, Facebook's future endeavors, and the future of digital marketing and social media marketing.
Virtual social gaming and experiences
Imagine the future of social gaming infused with virtual reality. Or a "Google Hangout" in virtual reality, providing much more personal and immersive aspects to video conferences and online social interactions. Much of Facebook's early growth was due to social gaming and it was one the first steps toward becoming its own platform. This acquisition provides an opportunity to relaunch the social gaming phenomena and provide much more engaging social interactions on the site.
Anything that further engages Facebook users and keeps them on Facebook properties longer is very valuable for Facebook. These "immersive" gaming experience or social networking experiences could provide a great deal of value for Facebook, but the gaming market is just the beginning for Facebook.
Google's announcement of Android Wear was not a significant surprise in the mobile industry, but it did solidify Google's position in wearables with both Google Glass and Android Wear.
Is the Oculus acquisition Facebook's strategy to break into wearables from a new perspective and build their own Google Glass? Facebook knows they need to get into the wearable market. This may be an avenue for Facebook to get ahead on wearables and virtual reality and not fall behind as they did with mobile.
The Oculus acquisition could even be a starting point to building their own operating system for smart glasses, wearables, virtual reality, and whatever else is in the future. Facebook never successfully built their own mobile OS and took a different approach to mobile through their own mobile apps and acquisitions of apps like Instagram and WhatsApp. This could be Facebook's way to break free from the vice that Apple and Google have on them in mobile.
The next platform
Zuckerberg noted in his post:
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. This is where Oculus comes in...After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home.
It's clear to see through recent acquisitions that Google, Apple, Facebook, and all the major tech players are searching and making big bets on the next major computing platform. All of these leaders are asking themselves "what's next?". For marketers and most brands, mobile is still the next big thing, but for these tech giants, mobile was the next big thing and has already passed. Fred Wilson, a well-known venture capitalist, has written a thought-provoking reaction to the acquisition and the tech giants' search for the next computing platform.
I believe Facebook's strategy is a combination of all three of these over varying time frames. Facebook is looking for newer and better ways to engage users while also looking to become a part of the bigger picture of the future of technology. What are your thoughts on the acquisition and Facebook's future? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.