Meta’s chip deal with Qualcomm may reflect its unfulfilled ambitions in virtual reality
Qualcomm and Meta have signed a multi-year agreement pledging to work as a team on custom versions of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR chips for “future roadmap for Quest products” and “other devices,” in the words of Mark Zuckerberg.
While, in some ways, the move as business as usual – the Quest 2 is powered by the Snapdragon XR2 chipset – could provide insight into Meta compromises as it faces falling revenue and tries to keep the Mark metaverse’s spiraling expenses in check.
What Qualcomm’s deal shows is that the upcoming Meta headphones, which are said to include a high-end Cambria headphone and, later, new versions of the cheap Quest headphone, won’t run on Meta-designed silicon.
This is despite competitors like Apple, Amazon and Google making product decisions around custom chip designs like the M2, Graviton3, and Tensor — and the fact that Meta has had a dedicated team doing the same since 2018. This press release says the chips are going to be “Dedicated” to meta needs. However, we don’t know how much space it can fit between its “premium” devices and those of other manufacturers that closely match Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR reference designs.
in April, the edge It reported that Meta employees have been working with semiconductor fabs – companies that already produce physical chips – to make chips dedicated to AR headphones that haven’t been announced yet. in the same month, the information It reported that some of Meta’s efforts to create custom chips were hitting snags, prompting it to use a Qualcomm chip for its second-generation Ray-Bay smart glasses instead of its own silicon.
Tyler Yee, a spokesperson for Meta, said the company is not discussing details about how its roadmap will evolve and will not comment on any specific plans it may have for chips intended for Quest products. However, Yee shared a statement about the company’s “general approach to custom silicon,” saying that Meta does not believe in a “one-size-fits-all approach” to the technology that powers its future devices.
“There may be situations where we use off-the-shelf silicon or work with industry partners on customizations, while also exploring our new silicon solutions. There could also be scenarios where we use custom solutions and partners on the same product,” he said. “It’s all about doing what’s needed to create the best possible metaverse experiences.”
The background to all this is a company that is facing a lot of pressure. Meta revenue is down for the first time (thanks in part to Apple’s changes to how it allows apps to track users), and Zuckerberg openly mentioned plans to put more pressure on employees while acknowledging, “I think some of you might just say this place isn’t for you. And that choice is yours.” Self suits me.” At the same time, he’s placing a huge bet on the metaverse – the company is spending and losing billions of dollars annually on the project, which includes AR and VR headsets.
It’s a high-stakes game and Meta supposedly wants to play it as close to the box as possible. But for now, hardware customers seem to be accessing Zuckerberg’s Metaverse using (if they ever will, rather than just playing Saber won) will still be backed by someone else’s chips.