For most of the world, it’s a yearly glimpse at what’s coming up from one of the world’s biggest tech companies. For Meta itself, it was the moment their new identity became a reality. And with it, the starter’s gun has been fired in the race to secure Meta’s future. So what did we learn from it all?
Here are my top takeaways:
1. Meta is serious about business
It’s clear Meta started this whole journey thinking ‘consumer’ first. But now, they’ve realized that enterprise is where immersive technologies can most readily demonstrate utility – and utility always equals adoption. So Connect was clearly aimed at convincing a wary business world that Meta is serious about business and that it can be trusted with the demanding world of work, where stability and reputation mean more than anything. This event was the first step in that repositioning, however, they didn’t do it by halves; most of the keynote and developer sessions had a deliberate ‘enterprise’ flavor. They also reached out to form a relationship with a tangential competitor/unlikely friend in Microsoft, that will have a big impact on moving the needle (reputationally speaking) for the majority of HR and IT executives weighing up whether Meta is a bet worth taking. Meta will move further towards being the hardware/distribution to Microsoft’s dominant software stack, whilst building services that add functionality for those not within the MS ecosystem.
2. Microsoft is serious about Meta
The most eyebrow-raising thing from Connect was the addition of Satya Nadella to announce the Microsoft partnership. At first glance, it was surprising because Microsoft has a bulletproof reputation in this space while Meta… don’t. Yet.
(Note: we’re talking reputational baggage from FB here – not any real weakness or security liability! While not relevant, these are the kind of decisions that can matter to a prospective executive team always under the microscope.)
But look under the hood and the MS+Meta partnership makes a lot of sense. Microsoft knows they have the business software space sewn up, but where they have struggled is controlling distribution. Mobile was a disaster for them, and their headset work, while early and impressive, has fizzled to the point where they are now allegedly licensing Hololens component designs out to other companies.
The last thing Microsoft would want is a hardware monopoly under Apple. And so, dedicating support to Meta makes a lot of sense, both in diversifying risk and ensuring they have at least one friendly path onto people’s faces. What do Apple and Meta both have in common? Neither wants to get into the office suite game (in terms of docs, spreadsheets, email, design and data storage). So Microsoft’s golden productivity goose is safe either way.
3. Accenture means serious business in metaverse services
The Accenture partnership is far less surprising and has been a long time coming. It’s primarily based around Meta gaining authenticity in the enterprise space and Accenture looking innovative and firming up supremacy in a new, hotly contested consulting vertical – which was the entire reason for their initial 60k Quest headset purchase in the first place. Accenture won’t be aiming to build products, but you can be sure after Connect, they will likely be the first port of call for immersive consulting if you are in the ASX200 etc. Lived experience and a big commitment count for a lot.
4. Mixed Reality is the killer feature
Now to the tech itself. While it shares a name with the Quest 2, the Quest Pro is one of the first major devices of a completely new genre – Mixed Reality (or passthrough Augmented Reality) native. That was the basis of every demo and experience portrayed throughout Connect.
To be clear, it’s likely the Quest Pro does do VR and anything else out there. But it also, and is perhaps at its best, lets the world through via the big cameras on the front of the device whilst adding a persistent digital layer over the top.
The psychological isolation of VR has always been its biggest limiting factor – first for consumers and then for enterprise users. Simply put, no one likes being cut off and unaware of their surroundings completely. The Quest Pro, therefore, allows the digital and physical worlds to blend naturally in a way that starts to allay that apprehension and encourage you to feel at ease.
The Mixed Reality experiences demonstrated during Connect were mostly just updated versions of the apps already available for Quest 2 and its grainy black-and-white passthrough. So you can expect a lot of rapid innovation as developers get their hands on the product + tools to see what they can really do with it.
5. The Quest Pro is impressive, but…
I wouldn’t expect many business users to be instantly swayed by what is there today. The first generation of any device is generally released primarily for developers to learn how to build things for it. Sure, the Quest range has been a great introduction, but it’s nearly impossible to develop a new experience in theory no matter how much you think you know about the end product.
Meta will have expectations on sales – and decent KPIs based on those sales. So they are going to be speaking about Quest Pro as a premium product ready to go for employees everywhere.
But at this price point (which I need to say, is pretty sharp and likely $500-$1k cheaper than Apple’s competing product in 2023) it won’t be a lay down misère. Value will need to be shown, and businesses will (and should) run pilots using the Quest Pro. I believe they will move, and I have no doubt devices *like this* will become a ‘must assign’ device within workplaces in the future, but this likely isn’t a mass market device yet.
6. Workplace will likely be less visible, but more important than ever
Asynchronous text/media-based communication and a news feed will always be vital within any organization. And Workplace is the best product of its type out there, bar none. But it will be (and has to be) seen less as a standalone product and more as a foundational feature that sits across everything else Meta will provide within its cohesive, communication-based office suite of the near future. So I’d say the prevailing Workplace business model will likely change over the coming years to fold in other functions, echoing how MS looks at Viva/Teams as just one vital component of their overall package.
So while it wasn’t featured during Connect, I believe Workplace won’t be less important over time. In fact, it’s vital to convince skeptics that Meta is invested in enterprise over and above just moving devices. Expect Workplace to be woven into the fabric of the wider platform and OS more and more to ensure the ecosystem is sticky for all businesses that adopt it.
7. Meta needs help
Okay, so this is the big one for us – and might be interesting to you, too. On this new path, what role will a partner like Enablo play?
Sure, Meta called in the big enterprise guns for their announcement, but businesses like Enablo are just as valuable and helpful going forward. Right now, Meta has two big challenges as I see it:
To convince a wary business world they can be truly trusted with productivity.
To then convince that same audience that its technology is about to radically change how they can work – and for the better.
This is where Enablo will come to the fore. You might not realize it, but internationally, Enablo already has direct access to the greatest number of businesses that believe a) and have less to fear in experimenting with b). That is a unique superpower we have through being the world’s most successful Workplace partner.
I also believe that Meta’s new focus will make Workplace and its office ecosystem more central to its future than ever before. This will inspire momentum and dedication that has been honestly flagging a little over the past year, since the name on the door was officially changed and the entire organization’s future was completely flipped.
This announcement, and the Microsoft partnership within, will also open doors that have previously been closed out there. It’s already flipped some of our conversations 180 degrees as people see their prospective tools working together.
So there has never been a better time to investigate the new world of work possible with us here at Enablo – the $360b ‘business-sized bet’ that Meta revealed this week shows it’s clearly in it for the long haul.