Facebook doesn’t want its hardware like Oculus or its augmented reality glasses to be at the mercy of Google. Because they rely on its Android operating system. Facebook has tasked Mark Lucovsky, a co-author of Microsoft’s Windows NT, with building the social network an operating system from scratch. To be clear, Facebook’s smartphone apps will remain available on Android.
“We really want to make sure the next generation has space for us. We don’t think we can trust the marketplace or competitors to ensure that’s the case. And so we’re gonna do it ourselves.”says Facebook’s VP of Hardware, Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth.
By moving to its own OS, Facebook could have more freedom to bake social interaction deeper into its devices. It could also prevent a disagreement between Google and Facebook from derailing the roadmaps of its gadgets. The focus of this work is on what’s needed for AR glasses. It’s exploring all the options right now, including potentially partnering with other companies. Or building a custom OS specifically for augmented reality.
One added bonus of moving to a Facebook-owned operating system? It could make it tougher to force to spin out some of its acquisitions. Especially if Facebook goes with Instagram branding for its future augmented reality glasses.
Facebook Portal has been sore about not owning an operating system and to depend on the courtesy of biggest rivals. Those include Apple, whose CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly thrown jobs at Facebook and its chief, Mark Zuckerberg. In a previous hedge against the power of the mobile operating systems, worked on a secret project codenamed Oxygen circa 2013 that would help it distribute Android apps from outside the Google Play store if necessary, Vox’s Kurt Wagner reported.
That said, its last attempt to wrestle more control of mobile away from the OS giants in 2013 went down in flames. The phone, built with HTC hardware, ran a forked version of Android and the Facebook Home user interface. But drowning the experience in friends’ photos and Messenger chat bubbles proved wildly unpopular, and both the HTC First and Facebook Home were shelved.
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Now Facebook is hoping to learn from past mistakes as it ramps up its hardware efforts with a new office for the AR/VR team in Burlingame, 15 miles north of the company’s headquarters. The 770,000-square-foot space is designed to house roughly 4,000 employees.
Facebook has also been working on hardware experiences for the enterprise. Workplace video calls can now run on Portal, with its smart camera auto-zooming to keep everyone in the board room in a frame or focused on the action. The Information reports Facebook is also prototyping a VR video conferencing system that Boz has been testing with his team.