Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg Bets on 'Working in the Metaverse'

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg Bets on ‘Working in the Metaverse’

Shares of Meta (META) fell this week after its disappointing third-quarter earnings report and as the company’s pivot to the metaverse draws increasingly negative sentiment.

In the year since Facebook became Meta, the company has spent billions investing in its metaverse projects. This investment has yet to bear fruit. For one thing, the division that oversees the company’s metaverse efforts, Reality Labs, lost money, posting a $3.7 billion loss in the last quarter alone.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg told analysts this week that he expects those losses to continue year-over-year. Yet while the company’s shares have suffered, Zuckerberg this month began presenting something unexpected as a major opportunity. He says the future of work may lie in the Metaverse and the company’s newest virtual reality headset, the Meta Quest Pro.

“Working in the metaverse is a major theme for Quest Pro,” Zuckerberg told analysts during the company’s earnings call on Wednesday. “There are 200 million people who buy new PCs every year, mostly for work. Our goal for the Quest Pro line over the next few years is to enable more and more of these people to actually do their jobs. virtual and mixed, possibly even better than they could on PC.”

This month at Meta Connect, the company highlighted its new partnerships with enterprise technology giant Microsoft (MSFT) and professional services giant Accenture (ACN). It’s a surprising angle. After all, thinking about Meta still conjures up images of a Facebook profile or, perhaps, a VR headset that we would normally associate with gaming.

However, Laura Martin, senior analyst at Needham, said there is a lot that makes sense in the future of work. Entering the future of work, for starters, “doubles their total addressable market,” Martin told Yahoo Finance. She added that the company’s new focus on mixed reality is also a “smart pivot” tied to new Microsoft and Accenture partnerships.

“My gut feeling is that the pivot to mixed reality is informed because Microsoft and Accenture, who think it’s more likely to succeed,” she said.

An image of Microsoft Teams in VR, from Meta Connect.

There is certainly precedent for the work-metaverse conversation. For example, Autodesk (ADSK) this year acquired The Wild, an XR platform specifically designed for architecture and construction professionals. There’s also a world of startups that includes companies like Virbela, which specifically brings virtual reality to business and education environments.

For Metaverse experts, there’s a chance Meta is onto something – with caveats. Adam Voss and Josh Rush, co-founders of VR platform Surreal, believe that all companies will eventually have some sort of metaverse presence, but not all workflows or training will be suitable for this 3D world.

“We believe every business will eventually have a metaverse website,” Rush said. “This website will be a three-dimensional social channel through which you can, for example, virtually organize engagement events or their offices… There are also, of course, many things that you would not want to reproduce in a metaverse, because you need that hands-on experience.”

Human resources could be an example of a job that could lend itself to the metaverse “from a brand perspective, because you’re bringing in the best talent,” Voss said.

It’s likely that Voss and Rush are right, that business applications in the metaverse will become more prevalent, according to Forrester vice president and principal analyst JP Gownder. It’s unclear when that will happen — and whether it will come in time for Meta to reap the benefits, he said.

“The metaverse for business is going to end up being really big, but will it be two years? 10 years? That’s going to be the challenge,” Gownder said.

An image of the Meta Quest Pro, at Meta Connect.

An image of the Meta Quest Pro, at Meta Connect.

Beyond lack of time, the corporate metaverse job push has other issues. Reports that Meta’s own employees aren’t interested in using the company’s VR products should give us pause, said Oscar Mattsson, founder and CEO of startup Allwhere, which offers tools, equipment and technology-based services to company employees.

“The future of work is when people have a say in how and where they want to do their best work,” said Mattsson, one of WeWork’s earliest employees. “For me, I think the future of work is to focus on improving the reality we currently live in, instead of creating some weird facsimile.”

Nor is it sold on Meta’s headsets as the key to future working environments in the long term – and certainly not in the short term.

In the short term, virtual reality in the workplace isn’t viable en masse, said Adam Riggs, former chairman of Shutterstock (SSTK) and current CEO of online workspace platform Frameable Spaces.

“Currently, based on what is available now or in the near future, virtual reality is not a serious, inclusive, or sustainable way to improve the performance of a remote or hybrid team,” did he declare. “Exceptions to this are specialized training applications, but for general office applications, virtual reality is not a viable path to better results.”

Mattsson may have expressed one thing we can all agree on: “Legless torsos aren’t the future of work.”

Allie Garfinkle is a senior technical reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks.

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