What you need to know
- Oculus is enabling 2D panel apps on the Horizon Home screen, including popular productivity apps like Slack and Dropbox.
- Facebook, Instagram, Smartsheet, and Spike are the first wave of apps arriving today, October 27.
- Theoretically, any app can be submitted to the Oculus Store through the App Lab as a progressive web app.
- These apps are part of Oculus's push to make the Quest 2 a more work-focused machine. It will launch Work Accounts on the Quest 2 in 2021 as a beta, with plans for a full Quest for Business 2023 launch.
At last year's Oculus Connect 2020, the company showed off a concept video for Infinite Office on the Oculus Quest 2. In essence, it would let you use your entire point of view as one large workspace, with windows for different apps spread out in front of you in VR. It wasn't a real feature yet, but Oculus brought us one step closer this summer by letting Quest 2 users sideload Android apps on the headset.
Now, you won't need to sideload any longer. At Connect 2021, Oculus revealed its new 2D panel apps for Horizon Home. On your home screen, you'll have the option to open apps like Facebook, Slack, Instagram, Canva, and Dropbox in your virtual space without having to take your headset off.
Many people use virtual reality to escape their jobs and responsibilities. But others likely feel anxious about missing a notification while in-headset. With these apps installed, you can quickly tap the Home button, check for Slack updates, and hop back into the action without breaking immersion.
Oculus announced a handful of apps today, and only a few like Facebook and Instagram are coming to the device this week — others like Slack will "follow soon." But its devs explained that any app developer can submit their app to Oculus's App Lab as a progressive web app, or PWA. Devs shouldn't have to optimize their apps in any way, as it'll appear in Oculus's virtual browser as a flat window.
So, in theory, a lot of the best Android apps could show up on the Quest 2 this year in PWA form. Though we suspect certain major apps might not show up anytime soon, such as Google Workspace apps. And Oculus's App Lab policies have some content restrictions that could prevent certain apps from getting approved.
While the App Lab is a great way to help indie developers get their VR games on the Quest 2, it's arguably not a very good way to incorporate PWAs onto the headset. App Lab apps aren't browsable in a group, meaning you have to know the name of an app and search for it directly in the Oculus Store, knowing the exact spelling to use. So to figure out which apps the Quest 2 has, you'll have to search for your favorites one by one. We did ask the Oculus devs if they would adopt a new search system for 2D apps, and they said no.
Quest 2: your new work device?
Regardless of how we find them, apps on the Oculus Quest 2 are a major feature, one that portends how Oculus plans to grow its platform in upcoming years. Oculus also announced Work Accounts today, a "new, business-only way to log into Quest with a work account instead of your personal Facebook account." They'll be available as part of a closed beta through 2022 before launching in 2023.
Here's how Quest for Business will work: your company will verify its email domain with Oculus. You'll then log into your Quest 2 work profile with your business email — no Facebook account required. Just as your company can use mobile device management (MDM) software to let IT remotely manage your work phone, MDMs like Microsoft Intune, VMware, or Ivanti UEM will be able to secure your Quest 2 work profiles remotely.
In other words, not just anyone can create a work profile, so you can't just use a work email to bypass the Facebook requirement. It appears your whole company will need to buy in first, which likely involves some kind of deal or license.
While Oculus said "there aren't any features specifically restricted when using Quest for Business," your organization could choose to disable certain features for security purposes like sideloading. The company did say you'll be able to play games like Beat Saber on a work profile, as well as use more collaborative software like Horizon Workrooms. And your work profile will have exclusive apps and tools unavailable on a personal Facebook profile.
Most Oculus owners are very happy using their devices to play the best Quest 2 games, and nothing more. By contrast, Oculus and Facebook want you to wear it all day for work, then switch to gaming or its new metaverse after hours. We'll have to wait and see just how many companies decide to make its workers wear monitored VR headsets all day. In the meantime, the new in-headset apps are a genuinely cool new feature.
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