Facebook really wants to get in the operating system business – remember the Facebook phones built by HTC such as the HTC First phone was powered by a forked version of Android and had a Facebook Home user interface. This attempt was really unpopular in 2013. Despite the failure, we predicted that Facebook was still interested in being a big player in the Mixed Reality industry(AR/VR) and would probably announce something interesting pitting Facebook and the phones.
Well, now we know they plan on first ditching Android.
Huawei being a pawn in the ongoing US/China trade war made them launch the Huawei Mate 30 that lacked Google services as the Chinese tech giant was placed on an entity list by the Trump administration and prevented US companies like Google from doing business with it. Huawei has however been working on their own operating system, Harmony OS with improved cross-platform capabilities and that supports different scenarios with the aim of reducing reliance on Android.
Back to Facebook, the company is also looking to follow a similar path as it figures what’s next after mobile. Facebook-owned Occulus uses Google’s Android and Facebook doesn’t want to be at the mercy of Google, another tech giant. This is why they employed Mark Lucovsky, a co-author of Microsoft’s Windows NT, to build them an operating system from scratch.
It is worth noting that Facebook’s apps will still be available on Android. In 2013, Facebook was working on Project Oxygen that would help the company have its apps outside of the Google Play Store. Vox who broke the story pointed out that Oxygen was the “break glass in case of emergency” plan Facebook put in place in case Google ever decided to suck all the oxygen out of the room.
“We don’t think we can trust the marketplace or competitors to ensure that’s the case. And so we’re gonna do it ourselves. We really want to make sure the next generation has space for us,” said Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of Hardware.
Facebook says that they could partner with other companies or build a custom OS, especially for AR.
Facebook having its own OS could inevitably make it a gatekeeper if AR becomes the next big thing.
Great reporting on Facebook's moves into spatial computing. The wave that's coming is huge and Zuckerberg is right to invest billions in it. Paradigm shifts change belief and behavior, which destroy big companies that bet wrong. Borland, Nokia, or WordPerfect anyone? https://t.co/pHe3yJALbf
— Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) December 19, 2019
To Control Its Destiny, Facebook Bets Big on Hardwarehttps://t.co/4zXItyZDrH
I would have added "VERY VERY VERY Far" to this paragraph on Facebook's chances of success in hardware 🙂 pic.twitter.com/Br0ec7UsK1
— Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin) December 19, 2019
Honestly, this makes total sense. As a large company that owns the low layer (Oculus hardware) and the high layer (end-user software), it wouldn't make any sense to have no control over the mid layer (OS).
I just hope Social VR never goes mainstream…https://t.co/hDaqjMawUD
— André Staltz (@andrestaltz) December 19, 2019
People have already started giving nicknames to the OS.
— Natasha (@riptari) December 19, 2019
Critics are saying that this would make it hard to break the tech giant up.
This new move joins facebooks plan’s to build brain-computing technology – they recently acquired CTRL-Labs, a startup based in New York that focuses on converting user movements into digital input signals and thus allows humans to control computers using their brains.
Facebook is working on AR glasses(they could probably ship with Instagram branding) alongside Oculus and Portal devices. The AR glasses could be ready for market by early 2023 and will compete with Apple’s own AR glasses that are set to be launched the same year.
Apart from the OS, the company is also working on its own custom chip hardware plus a voice assistant. Facebook recently held acquisition talks with Cirrus Logic, semiconductor company($4.5 billion market cap) that makes audio chips for Apple and more – the deal never happened.