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The future of Oculus, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

What does the man who bought Oculus expect from the VR company? He shared his thinking about the future of the platform, and when it becomes "interesting" to Facebook.

Christian Nutt, Contributor

October 28, 2014

3 Min Read

During Facebook's quarterly results call, co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered some comments on how he expects the VR headset maker to fit in with the company's overall strategy, and how he sees it progressing.

A 10-year road

Zuckerberg first spoke of Oculus in his prepared remarks, discussing it in his "10-year" segment, after discussing Facebook's three-year and five-year strategies. Given the call's audience -- analysts and investors -- it's clear he's doing this to tell the mainstream not to expect much from Oculus just yet. However, Zuckerberg did acknowledge that a limited number of games and apps are driving the platform forward, and that developers are already enthusiastic for it. He acknowledged that Oculus' latest prototype headset, the Crescent Bay, brings it closer to launching a consumer product -- which echoes recent sentiments of Oculus' own execs. On its unveiling, Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe called it "much, much closer to consumer Rift." However, even still, Zuckerberg reiterated that Facebook's investment in the VR company is a long-term play for Facebook. "As I've said before, with Oculus, we're making a long-term bet on the future of computing," Zuckerberg said. "Every 10 to 15 years a new major computing platform arrives... Virtual reality and augmented reality are an important part of this platform." "Our efforts here will take longer to achieve their full impact, but we will prepare for the future by continuing to invest aggressively," Zuckerberg said, speaking not just of Oculus but also internet.org. "It's still early for Oculus."

Zuckerberg spells out his expectations for Oculus

When questioned on his evolving expectations for Oculus, and Facebook's strategy with the VR company, this is what Zuckerberg had to say: "The strategy for Oculus is to help accelerate their growth. They've got two products... Rift on PC, and they're supporting Gear VR and the Samsung team on building the mobile version. I'm really excited about both of them. "It needs to reach a very large scale -- 50 to 100 million units -- before it will really be a very meaningful thing as a computing platform, so I do think it's going to take a bunch of years to get there. Maybe, I don't know -- it's hard to predict exactly -- but I don't think it's going to get to 50 or 100 million units in the next few years, right? That'll take a few cycles of the device to get there. "And when you get to that scale, that's when it starts to be interesting as a business, in terms of developing out of the ecosystem. So when I'm talking about it as a 10-year thing, I'm talking about building the first set of devices, and then building the audience and the ecosystem around that, until it eventually becomes a business." Of course, Zuckerberg is speaking here of the broad potential for the Oculus platform as a mainstream computing device; but in doing that, he's also acknowledging that it's going to take an incremental path forward as the technology improves and more games and apps are developed, and an audience is created for them. During the call, one analyst questioned the fact that Facebook has a much larger investment in R&D earmarked for the future, and while CFO David Wehner didn't break down what part of those funds is earmarked for Oculus, he did mention that it will continue to be a strong focus of the company's R&D efforts moving forward.

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