April 15, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: Facebook is embracing subscription billing for VR apps and services, and Google is stealthily hiring folks to build its own AR glasses.
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In a sign that Facebook is looking to take its Quest VR headset beyond gaming, the company added in-app subscription billing to the Oculus platform Thursday. Similar to mobile app stores, consumers can now subscribe to select services directly from their headsets, and developers are able to embrace business models that go beyond paid downloads.
In-app subscriptions could be lucrative, if mobile is any indication. Subscriptions could become a significant driver of revenue for both publishers and Facebook, especially outside of the realm of hardcore gaming.
Early signs suggest publishers think it's a good idea: FitXR CEO Sam Cole told me that the new billing model is a welcome change for his company.
And the emphasis on fitness seems like a good idea for VR in-app subscriptions, as consumers are already used to paying monthly fees for fitness studios as well as services like Peloton. What's more, fitness subscriptions could also help VR in general, argued Cole. "In order for the VR ecosystem to continue to scale, you need those habitual use cases," he said, adding: "On-platform subscription pricing is part of this coming-of-age story of VR."
"Building a company's first hardware product is hard. It's pretty dope that we made this happen!" —Spotify product designer Barton Smith shared some of the work that went into designing the company's Car Thing device in a Twitter thread this week.
"Mark my words, with the exception of brand integrations and perhaps promos for their other original content, NETFLIX WILL NEVER SHOW ADS ON THEIR OWN STREAMING SERVICE." —Streaming media consultant Kirby Grines, responding to the latest idle speculation about Netflix adding ads.
Open-source computing is going gangbusters — and that's good news for those seeking better and stronger security in the enterprise. With the growth of hardware platforms, ISVs and CSPs using trusted execution environments to protect data in use, open source-licensed projects are a natural way to encourage experimentation, learning and adoption.
Facebook and Apple may be getting some competition in the race to make AR glasses: Google has posted a number of open positions that suggest the company is looking to build its own AR devices, complete with custom-build waveguide display technology.
Remember: Google acquired AR startup North last summer. And while some of these new jobs are located in Mountain View, most are in Waterloo, Ontario, where North is located.
Google made some pretty sizable investments into VR hardware in the past, but has since all but abandoned VR. In the AR space, Google's efforts have thus far been primarily focused on mobile, but there have been signs beyond the North acquisition that the company is getting back to developing immersive hardware. Just last week, we broke the story that Google has acquired 3D audio startup Dysonics, which could lay the groundwork for immersive and 3D audio for future AR wearables.
One of the many recurring jokes on Twitter is the "did an X write this" response. If a website publishes an article about the psychological benefits of cuddling with your dog, someone will inevitably respond: "Did a dog write this?" Usually, that's a rhetorical question. However, every now and then, it's actually true, as "Colbert Show" writer Michael Cruz Kayne found out this week. Kayne had gotten a few texts from his wife, telling him that their kids deserved some extra screen time because they had been going "through a tough stretch at school." Another text remarked that it was okay to let them play Roblox during school hours because "it's been a bumpy road this year." Turns out the kids had hacked his wife's computer to impersonate her. If it hadn't been for the slightly too enthusiastic "love yaaaaaa" closing, they may even have been able to get away with it.
Totally unrelated: I just read an article about the fact that newsletters get better the more often you forward them to your friends and colleagues. Love yaaaaaa!
Thanks for reading — see you next week!