Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Facebook buys Oculus VR, not as left-field as you think

Originally published on Kupeesh!

By now you've heard the big news...

Facebook has bought Oculus VR, the company at the forefront of virtual reality products aimed at the consumer and de facto mascot for the power of crowd sourcing.

The real question is, what does VR have to do with social media?  Does Mark Zuckerberg expect us all to start running around with VR headsets poking fingers at the empty air screaming "Like!" and "Friend!"
Zuckerberg has an answer...

"... we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home."

Zuckerberg the futurist or maybe it's more like Zuckerberg coming to the realization that Facebook as a service is losing relevance. 

Enter Facebook, the brand.  Remember the failed HTC First?  It was the short-lived Smartphone that forced users into the Facebook ecosystem whether they wanted it or not.  It was the first indication that the Facebook bandwagon was losing a wheel.

As early as October of last year the company warned advertisers that "organic reach" will eventually be inconsequential.  "Organic reach," by the way,  is the number of Facebook page views that don't come from your "Fans" or "Friends" but rather from sources like search engines and shared links outside of the service.

That means advertisers have to work harder to attract eyeballs as veteran users become increasingly jaded against ads they have no interest in.  Not good news for a free service that depends on ad revenue.

There's little doubt that many of Zuckerberg's visions will come to pass but whether they're all Facebook properties remains to be seen.  It's far more likely that this move is meant to elevate Facebook the brand above Facebook the service. 

Much like Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility in 2011 it's less about owning a space than creating a halo effect around the brand.    In Google's case, they didn't need to dominate the Android device market to dictate what it looked like.  Mission accomplished and now Motorola Mobility is on its way to Lenovo sans a few patents safely kept in Google's breast pocket.

We're entering what could be called the "Post-services" era.  It's more about the halo around a brand than the products themselves.  History is on Zuckerberg's side.  Nobody thinks of Google as just a search engine anymore and Zuckerberg is betting that Facebook can evolve beyond social media. 

Much to the dismay (or the delight) of IP attorneys everywhere we may soon view online Icons like Facebook, Google and Twitter the same way we look at Ford, Chevy and Toyota.   You'll be picking brand not product.

But fear not social media addicts.  Facebook the service will always remain a place to jeopardize future job prospects by posting embarrassing videos of yourself.