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Meta opens Quest operating system to third-party device makers

Trade fair in Hannover Messe

By Yuvraj Malik and Katie Paul

(Reuters) -Meta Platforms is sharing its Quest headset's operating system with rival device makers, including Microsoft, for the first time, it said on Monday, as it works to extend its influence over the emerging virtual and mixed reality industry.

The move will allow partner companies to build their headsets using Meta Horizon OS, a rebranded operating system that brings capabilities like gesture recognition, passthrough, scene understanding and spatial anchors to the devices that run on it, the company said in a blog post.

The social media company said partners Asus and Lenovo would use the operating system to build devices tailored for particular activities. Meta is also using it to make a limited edition version of the Quest headset "inspired by" Microsoft's Xbox gaming console, according to the company's statement.

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The move underscores Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg's ambition to own the computational platform that powers virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) devices, similar to the way Alphabet's Google became a key player in the smartphone market by making its mobile OS Android open source.

Meta's VR business is one of the beneficiaries of that Google strategy, as Meta Horizon OS is itself Android-based.

In a video posted on Zuckerberg's Instagram account, he previewed examples of specialized headsets partners might make: a lightweight device with sweat-wicking materials for exercise, an immersive high-resolution one for entertainment and another equipped with sensation-inducing haptics for gaming.

Meta said in its blog post that ASUS' Republic of Gamers is developing a gaming headset and Lenovo is working on an MR device for productivity, learning, and entertainment using the Horizon OS. Zuckerberg said it may take a few years for these devices to launch.

VR and MR headsets have so far seen limited adoption, mostly from the gaming community and select enterprises that use them for training or remote conferencing. Meta is the current market leader but is starting to face more pressure in the space.

Long-time adversary Apple entered the category early this year with its $3,499 Vision Pro headset, while Google is also reportedly working on an Android platform for VR and MR devices. Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth in March accused Google of pitching that system to partners with restrictive terms that could "fragment the ecosystem."

Zuckerberg alluded to the disagreement in his video on Monday, saying he would welcome having Google Play apps on Meta Horizon OS devices, "if they're up for it."

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meta said the Meta Horizon OS includes Horizon Store, renamed from Quest Store, to download apps and experiences. The platform will work with a mobile companion app now called Meta Horizon app.

(Reporting by Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru and Katie Paul in New York; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Rosalba O'Brien)