Meta’s $1,500 bet
Good morning! Meta took the wraps off its Quest Pro VR headset, with a price tag that will be out of reach for most casual virtual reality consumers. But that’s just fine with Meta.
Meta’s $1,500 bet
Meta Connect yesterday was a huge celebration of Meta’s giant gamble on VR. Yet it remains clear there’s still a long road ahead for the technology at an uncertain moment in the global economy.
The event was packed with announcements. Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass and Windows apps will be available on the Quest. Meta is partnering with NBCUniversal to offer content that can be streamed in VR. Dozens of apps and games have grossed over $10 million in revenue through Quest’s official app store, the company said. It’s even bought three more VR development studios.
- This is, apparently, just the beginning. “The social platform of VR is still taking shape,” Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth said during the event.
- Execs said they’re also talking about bringing the company’s metaverse app, Horizon Worlds, to the web.
The biggest news was the unveiling of Quest Pro, which was commonly known as Project Cambria up until now. (It looks like this.) Compared to the Quest, the new headset offers higher fidelity, mixed reality, and face and eye tracking. Its hefty $1,500 price tag puts it out of reach for most consumers, but Meta isn’t calling it an enterprise device.
- “This is definitely a prosumer device,” Bosworth said in an interview with Protocol’s Janko Roettgers, adding that Meta hopes to expand the headset’s work applications but isn’t marketing it as being the same as, say, the HoloLens.
- Bosworth acknowledged that the price is relatively high, but Meta is “working hard on completely novel technologies that don’t have a deep supply chain around them yet.”
But this is very much a next step on a long road for the company. “We're definitely trying to continue to push the industry forward, and one of the best ways we know how to do that is to release these devices that demonstrate to people what can be done,” Bosworth told Janko. .
- Just as people spend thousands of dollars on high-end gaming rigs, the company is hoping that people will do the same with the Quest Pro.
- But positioning a headset as one that’s great for games and perfect for fitness, as well as something that people will want to wear for work applications, is a risky bet.
How does Bosworth feel about all the risk in the current climate? “It's challenging for the global economy, and it's particularly challenging for our industry,” he told Janko. “Certainly, you make the road map changes that you need to make … But in exchange for that, you also get a little more focus, you gain some clarity of vision. It's not always a bad thing.”
Read more: Bosworth’s full Q&A with Janko.
All eyes on Mobileye’s IPO
Intel is spinning out Mobileye, its autonomous-driving tech unit, as a separate company through an IPO. Protocol’s Max Cherney dug through the company’s prospectus, and here are the major takeaways.
What does Mobileye do? The company, purchased by Intel in 2017, makes a combination of hardware and software that enables advanced driver-assistance systems in vehicles.
- Along with developing chips for assisted driving systems, it offers a software platform that it says can enable the “full stack” of autonomous-driving technologies.
- The company has also made big bets on self-driving delivery vehicles and robotaxis.
How does it make money? The majority of its sales come from chips: 76% of the company’s 2022 revenue was from sales to vehicles made by eight automakers.
- Losses have steadily narrowed over the past three years: Mobileye reported a 2021 net loss of $75 million, compared with a loss of $196 million in 2020 and $328 million in 2019.
- R&D remains a large expense: Of the company’s 3,100 global employees, roughly 80% are dedicated to R&D. For the six months ending in July, R&D costs were $359 million, or around 42% of revenue.
What could go wrong? Mainly it’s that building a new business in an emerging market comes with its fair share of competition and risks.
- The company counts Sony, Tesla, and Apple as its competitors, as well as Nvidia and Qualcomm, which are designing similar systems. Cruise, Waymo, and Zoox also compete with it in the robotaxi business.
- Given that it makes most of its cash from semiconductor sales, it also faces the same hardships as the rest of the chip industry, and said it expects “inflationary pressures” in 2023.
What’s next? Though Mobileye was an early adopter of self-driving tech, the first-mover advantage only lasts so long, Dylan Patel, principal at SemiAnalysis, told Max: “The whole sector will grow, but Nvidia and Qualcomm especially have a ton of wins when we start looking out over three or four years.”Read more: The full cheat sheet on Mobileye’s IPO.
The story behind the Tinder swipe
In 2012, Tinder co-founder Christopher Gulczynski and his colleagues needed to figure out a way for users to show interest in one another. What they stumbled upon didn’t have any significant meaning at that moment, but it’s safe to say that the ability to swipe right or left has become a defining feature in online dating over the past decade.
Sarah chatted with Gulczynski about how the app’s founders came up with the swiping feature in an interview, which you can read in full here.
- The initial prototype looked like a stack of cards. “There was a design system called neumorphism, where things would actually look like real objects … So I made a group of people look like a stack of Polaroid photos. Beneath those were the ‘No’ button, the ‘I’ button for more information, then a green button for liking them.”
- That idea morphed into a stack of cards that could move. “John [Badeen] was like, ‘Well, I had this other flashcard app where you turn the phone landscape view then move flashcards into different piles. We could do that vertically.’”
- It was supposed to be lighthearted. “But it's obviously taken on a life of its own when people started using it and the public defined what it's going to be.”
- And once it took off, the founders learned not to mess with it. “We tried doing other features … But in the end we realized that was cannibalizing the swipe feature.”
Protocol Special Report: Securing the Enterprise
There’s no let-up in the surge of cyberattacks against businesses. But shutting down the hackers will require many enterprises to evolve their strategy. Presented by At-Bay.
People are talking
Chronicle may be Google’s way into the cybersecurity market — especially with help from Mandiant, according to Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian:
- “We want to both identify the new flavors of threats that are emerging and speed up the automation of how you protect against threats.”
Lego parent company Kirkbi is buying ed tech company Brainpopfor $875 million as part of its plan to establish itself in a new business sector.
Thoma Bravo is buying ForgeRock, the security company, in an all-cash deal valued at $2.3 billion.
Joe Dillon is joining Baffle as EVP of sales. Dillon most recently worked at Code42 as VP of security solutions sales.
Monica Pool Knox joined Domo as chief people officer. She's held similar roles at Microsoft, Twitter, and Verizon.
Andrew Smeaton is Afiniti’s new CISO. Smeaton most recently worked in the same role at DataRobot.
Skillsoft named Richard Walker as its new CFO, effective at the end of October. Gary Ferrera, Skillsoft’s current CFO, will remain with the company until the end of the year to help the transition.
In other news
Intel is cutting thousands of jobs as demand for PCs dramatically slows down.
Brex cut 11% of its workforceas a part of restructuring. The company’s CFO is also leaving to join fintech company Rippling.
The SEC is investigating Yuga Labs, the creator of Bored Ape Yacht Club, to determine whether its NFT sales violate securities laws.
Google is partnering with Coinbaseto allow some Cloud customers to pay for services in crypto early next year.
Blockchain.com was approved to operate in Singapore. Coinbase just got a license in the country as well.
TikTok's offering to buy back sharesfrom employees at $155 per restricted stock unit. It's the company's second round of share buybacks this year.
The Labor Department revealed a proposal that would classify millions of gig workers as employees, rather than contractors.
Twitter is reassessing its policy on permanent user bans, according to the Financial Times. A change like that would align with some of Elon Musk’s thinking about social networks.
BNY Mellon is now taking crypto. The oldest bank in the U.S. will start receiving bitcoin and ether from select customers this week.
Former Peloton CEO John Foley faced several margin calls on money that he borrowed against his holdings in the company.
If you were hoping that “Coin: A Founder’s Story” was as exciting as the headlines the company made last year, you might be disappointed. Rather, the 84-minute film is “more than a little uncanny in the way that obvious propaganda tends to be,” The Atlantic’s Charlie Warzel writes. Others agree:
- Blair Marnell at Digital Trends said the film is so bullish on crypto it “comes off as propaganda at times.”
- Cas Piancey, a writer for crypto publication Protos, noted that the directors spent $2 million for a “piece of propaganda.” “Don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t try to sit through COIN.”
But maybe the propaganda is the point. As POLITICO’S Derek Robertson points out, the movie gives insight into how hardcore purveyors of crypto think about themselves in relation to the world: “As altruistic entrepreneurs on a mission to economically empower the common man, seeking, to paraphrase one talking head, to ‘change the world’ by ‘creating value’ in it.”
A Message from At-Bay
“If money were not an issue, the first thing I would do is move all of our customers to the cloud. As an insurer, we know that moving your business systems, data, and services to established cloud environments can dramatically reduce your attack surface and improve security controls, while reducing the time and cost to recover in the event you’re hit with an attack.” - Rotem Iram, Co-founder and CEO at At-Bay
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