Despite selling upwards of 10 million Quest 2 units, generating $1 billion in Quest Store sales, and dominating the Steam survey for PC VR users, Meta lost $10 billion on its VR business in 2021. Evidently, the company needs new VR/AR revenue sources to justify high R&D, hiring, and advertising costs.
One hypothetical VR cash cow is "Quest for Business," Meta's enterprise VR initiative. The company used to sell actual enterprise-edition headsets but now plans to let people have work accounts on its consumer headsets. Imagine filling the virtual space around your computer chair with massive floating displays, unrestricted by desk space and budget. By 2023, it plans to sell headsets to businesses with MDMs like Microsoft Intune and VMware installed for remote IT installation and accessing restricted files in VR.
As intriguing as that sounds, though, I'm not sure Meta can pull it off, based on everything I've seen thus far with productivity and 2D apps on the Quest 2. Even if Project Cambria gives us a significant hardware boost, I'm worried the software, partnerships, and implementation will fall short of something people will want to use for hours every day.
A blurry future for Quest productivity
Since the Quest 2 launched, the Oculus devs have made it increasingly easy to wear the headset at your desk. For example, while using Experimental features in the Settings, you can see your Magic Keyboard or Logitech K830 keyboard sitting on top of your desk. Connect your keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth, and you can efficiently work, email, or check social media inside the Oculus Browser. And you can set up multiple windows in the air around you, making multitasking effortless.
What got me pumped about working in-headset last year was the October announcement that 2D progressive web apps like Slack, Instagram, Dropbox, and Canva would come to the Quest 2 — and that any app should translate into VR with minimal work on the developers' parts. I pictured all of my favorite apps in the air around me as I worked like a truly futuristic, Minority Report-esque feature.
Meta only launched a couple of 2D apps (i.e., Facebook and Instagram) to start, so I waited eagerly for more to arrive before I properly "reviewed" the feature. So I waited, and waited some more. We've received a couple more productivity apps like Monday.com in the three months since, but nothing major. We were even promised apps like Slack that are still AWOL. Eventually I gave up tested the feature with what was available.
2D VR apps are...fine? Thanks to a recent update, they're essentially their own browser windows that you can resize. If you have 120Hz mode active, scrolling will be as smooth as on the best Android phones, which the Quest's 6GB of RAM helps with. And the larger space makes multitasking much better than Android 12L could manage on a tablet.
But the Facebook and Instagram apps have limitations; they don't support Reels or video calling, for instance. And if Meta couldn't get those to work for its apps, other developers' apps may not offer the full suite of features, either.
You also have to reckon with all the usual visual frustrations of VR, like god rays and general blurriness around the edges of your vision. As an LCD lens, its colors don't look as nice as an OLED display on your laptop or phone. And eye strain is bad enough when you're staring at a computer screen for hours, but likely even worse if you're staring at a screen a few inches from your face.
With the Quest Pro, we can hope for some slight visual upgrades, even if it can't match the graphical capacity of a wired VR headset like the 4K-per-eye PS VR2. More importantly, revamped cameras would improve hand tracking so you can more easily scroll through menus with something other than a mouse or touch controller.
But regardless, will everyday people want a headset strapped to their faces for an eight-hour workday? Maybe an engineer or artist working on 3D renders could benefit, but the upsides aren't there yet for regular work. I'd argue that VR immersion works better for fast-paced gaming, but during a typical workday, you'll come to associate VR with a tedious space you can't escape or look away from.
Ultimately, working on the Quest 2 feels gimmicky. You'll need a head strap to make it comfortable for hours, lens inserts so your glasses don't dig into your skin, the right Bluetooth keyboard, and a long USB-C cable to keep it charged while you work. All to work primarily through an Oculus Browser that's severely limited in features compared to most browsers.
Waiting on the right apps
Meta may support your iOS and Android phone notifications, but not the apps themselves. Certain major apps like Gmail, Outlook, and Tiktok are "supported" in that if you click on a link, it'll open in the Oculus Browser. But it's unclear whether any of these apps will receive an actual Oculus app of its own.
To me, that comes down to the whole PWA strategy. Meta designed it so developers could bring apps to the Quest without having to code specifically for VR. But on the Oculus Store pages for the rare 2D apps out now, reviewers bemoan the fact that the current 2D "apps" are essentially shortcuts to the web pages for those sites, with none of the compact vertical app design you'd expect. Progressive web apps may be easy to bring to the Quest, but users won't use them if they don't like the look.
It's also the case that Meta takes the same 30% app fee as Apple and Google, so developing an app for a VR platform with fewer users doesn't seem like the most productive use of time. And if you're not a major developer, you'll be forced to submit your app to App Lab; that means people would have to specifically search for the app by name because it won't show up on the Store's search results otherwise.
So if the Quest 2 app library foregoes Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and other major productivity apps while indie developers leave their apps buried in the Lab, can it truly attract serious attention as a work device by next year? We can only hope that Meta forms some meaningful partnerships with other companies and announces them alongside Cambria this year. For now, the continued lack of apps worries me.
Working on something better
Practically every monthly Quest update adds some new work feature; you just have to enable Experimental features to access them. But that's the keyword right there: experimental. You can't build a work platform off of features that aren't guaranteed to work every day.
Besides, even if the devs make the best browsing experience possible, it won't matter without the right apps. Compared to Google's Project Iris, which will likely have a full force of Android apps behind it, the Quest 2 may be too sparse on productivity tools to succeed.
You could always use Virtual Desktop, the PC-emulating app we consider one of the best Link cable alternatives, to access all the apps you want once Android apps come to PCs. But that takes away the whole point of the Quest 2 as a standalone work device.
No doubt people will point out that it's Project Cambria that'll fit the work model best, given its alleged eye/facial tracking for realistic avatars, better controls, and alleged upgrades to comfort and battery life. But we don't know yet how expensive Cambria will be, and many companies will lean towards the cheaper Quest 2 if it supports the same features — the same way they'll give new employees an entry-level laptop instead of a MacBook Pro.
In the end, the Quest 2 or Quest Pro may improve its work tools in ways I can't fathom by 2023, but it won't change my trepidation about wearing one all day, five days a week.
Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.
Get the best of Android Central in in your inbox, every day!
Thank you for signing up to Android Central. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.