By opening up its Quest OS, Meta is positioning itself for the headset wars

By opening up its Quest OS, Meta is positioning itself for the headset wars

Meta is finally opening up its VR ecosystem to better compete with upcoming competition from Apple and Google.

Meta announced three important pieces of news yesterday:

  1. For the first time, hardware manufacturers will be able to license Meta Quest's operating system and launch their own headsets based on what's now called Meta Horizon OS. The first announced OEM partners are Asus and Lenovo.
  2. Meta wants to remove the barriers between the Quest Store (now called the Meta Horizon Store) and the uncurated App Lab. As a first step, App Lab titles will be given their own section in the Meta Horizon Store, making them easier to find in the future.
  3. Meta is working on a "spatial framework" that will make it easier for developers to bring mobile apps to Meta Horizon OS.

All three steps have one goal: to put Meta in a better position for the upcoming competition. After years of a quiet monopoly, Meta is no longer unchallenged. Apple entered the VR market in February, and Google, along with hardware partner Samsung, could join in later this year. All three companies aim to dominate XR by establishing a market-leading operating system and store.

Mark Zuckerberg has talked for some time about pursuing an "open model" for XR reminiscent of Windows and Android, which he sees as an important selling point when compared to Apple's walled garden approach. And now he's taking the next steps to make that vision a reality.

Google may unveil an Android-based XR operating system for headsets at its developer conference in May, that will power Samsung's upcoming mixed reality headset and possibly headsets from other announced OEMs partners.

With the news of opening the Quest OS to other hardware manufacturers, Meta is ahead of Google's announcement. And it already has three hardware partners in Asus, Lenovo and likely LG, which is more than Google has announced so far.

Artificial barriers for developers fall

With the second major news, Meta is sending a positive signal to developers. By lowering the barriers between the Meta Horizon Store and App Lab, Meta is making it easier for developers to reach their customers and making the Meta ecosystem more attractive overall.

According to UploadVR, Meta plans to eventually kill App Lab altogether and merge it into a unified store that adopts App Lab's more open requirements. The Meta Horizon store will be less like the ones we know from consoles and more like the App Store and Google Play Store.

The announcement of a "spatial framework" for Meta Horizon OS came last, but seems crucial for Meta's strategy in the coming platform war.


Vision Pro supports millions of iOS and iPad apps through visionOS, while Google's yet-to-be-announced OS is expected to support the Google Play Store and millions of Android apps. One of the biggest weaknesses of Meta Horizon OS so far is that it only supports a handful of mobile apps through the PWA standard. The spatial framework is probably Meta's way of solving this problem.

"Whether you’re bringing over an existing app or building a new one from scratch, this new framework should make things easier by letting you use the tools you’re already familiar with," Meta writes.

The battle for XR's Android

Having a wide range of mobile apps available on headsets will play a big role in the XR platform wars for a simple reason: headset users want to stay connected to the app ecosystem they know from their smartphones and tablets. And Meta Quest, for the most part, doesn't allow that right now.

Meta actually asked Google to bring the Play Store to Meta Horizon OS, even offering Google "to operate with the same economic model it does on other platforms" and keep the revenue. Google, in turn, wanted Meta to partner on its own XR operating system, which would have meant abandoning Meta Horizon OS. Meta declined the offer, which means that the Google Play Store will likely remain reserved for Google's XR operating system and Samsung's mixed reality headset.

What's in it for the OEMs?

How open Meta Horizon OS will be in the end remains to be seen. UploadVR reports that all headsets based on Meta Horizon OS will require a Meta account, and according to RoadtoVR, the company is currently selecting its hardware partners, presumably to avoid a flood of products and ensure good interaction between software and hardware. In any case, the new headsets won't arrive anytime soon. According to Mark Zuckerberg, it will probably be "a couple of years" before some of these products hit the market.

The biggest question right now seems to be what OEMs can expect to gain from launching their own headsets based on the Meta Horizon OS. All revenue from the Meta Horizon store will be split between developers and the platform operator Meta, and OEMs are unlikely to make much money on the hardware, as demand for highly specialized headsets (Zuckerberg mentions productivity, media consumption, gaming, and fitness as examples) is likely to be too low at this point to warrant massive investments. In addition, Meta has driven headset prices down to a range where margins are difficult to achieve, so expect these headsets to cost much more than a Meta Quest with lower level of adoption.