Mark Zuckerberg has just announced a strategic shift for its VR headset as an open platform to whatever he thinks the metaverse could be.

By licensing its Horizon OS to hardware manufacturers like Lenovo and Asus, collaborating with Xbox for a gaming-focused Quest, or accelerating the development of a spatial framework for app portability, Meta is now shifting gears to build an ecosystem rather than a proprietary product. Of course, above the Horizon OS, which is now positioned as an open and collaborative initiative, Meta is adding its Horizon social layer. This layer is intended to help Meta keep on being a hub for social interaction within a virtual world, akin to a blend of Roblox and The Sims. This is also the usual bait and switch to sustain Meta's old-school ad-driven business model–yes, you're still the product.

The logic here is the same as Google's Android when facing the explosive launch of the iPhone and iOS back in 2008. If you can't beat them, open your platform so that everyone else can come on board and build critical mass for you.

This Meta's "open platform" turn-around severely contrasts with Apple's closed-garden strategy that, up to now, no one really wanted to participate in (where's Netflix?). Will other companies be more willing to fuel Meta's business model? Unsure.

Who wants to fuel Apple’s critical mass?
Here is an interesting bit of news today if you want to understand better how digital platforms tick: following up on Netflix, YouTube (Google), and Spotify won’t lift a finger to help Apple launch their new VisionPro mixed-reality headset next month. YouTube, Spotify, and some other popular apps (probably) won’

In all this, the takeaway should be quite evident by now.

In digital markets, the product is only an accessory to where the competitive war is waged: at the platform level. Apple may have a better product than Meta, but who's going to win this AR/VR push is the one that will bring as many other players into its ecosystem.

And if you feel that closed is "mean" and open is "nicer," you still misunderstand that these are, in essence, exactly the same strategies, both aiming at sucking the oxygen out of the market to be the only one left standing.

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