I didn’t think it was possible for Facebook to make a more confusing business move than their $19 billion acquisition of Whatsapp, but I stand corrected. Facebook has acquired Oculus for $2 Billion. However, the two separate, enormous acquisitions are confusing for very different reasons. The Whatsapp acquisition was staggering simply because of the large dollar value placed on a company with such a small revenue stream. The acquisition of Oculus, maker of the Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset, begs the question about Facebook’s general goals and just how lofty (or far-fetched) they may be.
The Oculus Rift allows you to view a completely 3D virtual world and to move around with a video game controller. The experience can be very cool. Taking a look at this video to get an idea of what it looks like. The most obvious use for VR systems such as this would, of course, be gaming, but the opportunities for this technology most certainly do not end there. The Oculus Rift could be used very heavily in education, in military training, in business meetings, possibly in the medical field and in any media streaming that would benefit from an immersive world. But, the one thing I do not see it being used for is social networking.
The company that really could have benefited from the acquisition of Oculus is a company that is already a conglomerate, is very deep into the business and gaming worlds and is looking for a new product to set itself apart. That company would be Microsoft. VR technology in conjunction with the Xbox Kinect could mean a completely immersive video game experience, something Microsoft desperately needs, given its sales woes in comparison to Sony (which is making a VR of its very own). Also, Microsoft obviously has deep roots in the business world, and this could really help them in that market, as well as allow them to break into more. Think about being able to tour a factory, if you are an investor, without ever leaving your house or being able to feel like you’re truly in the room with someone while teleconferencing.
Another company that would have made sense, only because of a recent project they have been working on, is Google. VR capability in conjunction with Google’s Project Tango could open the door to limitless possibilities. The inside of a room could be spatially mapped and viewed from a VR for someone to get a full understanding of what the inside of a place looks at that particular moment. This demonstrates that possibilities for VR are far reaching, but I do not think Facebook has the right outlook or is in the right industry to take it there.
The real thing to take away from this deal is that Facebook is doing one thing right, they are looking into the future and trying to predict what will come next and how they can benefit from it. I think this acquisition was them looking in the wrong place, however. Lately, it seems that they are just throwing dollar bills at the wall and hoping something sticks. In addition, Microsoft, with its new CEO, needs to start looking into new fields to approach because, at this point, the public eye is turning away from the tech giant, and it needs a bold move to turn everyone back.