Unwitting Ally: Apple Gifts to Meta


The Gist

  • Mixed reality. Apple’s pricey Vision Pro legitimizes mixed reality, inadvertently boosting Meta’s cheaper, established alternatives.
  • Ad tracking change. Apple’s ad tracking restrictions inadvertently aided Meta’s ad performance and revenue.
  • Messages’ limitation. Apple’s reluctance to make Messages interoperable has inadvertently propelled Meta’s WhatsApp to greater prominence.

Apple CEO Tim Cook disdains Meta. He’s needled the company over its scandals, urged regulators to take it on, and even disabled Meta’s internal iOS apps, throwing it into momentary chaos. 

But today, Cook may be Meta’s biggest asset. And certainly not by design. 

In a series of moves meant to solidify Apple’s market position, Cook’s handed Meta several gifts. He’s established a category for its riskiest bet, hampered its advertising competitors and given its messaging apps a path to global leadership. With rivals like this, Meta might not need friends. 

This week, let’s look at how Apple’s bolstered Meta’s mixed reality, advertising and messaging bets. 

Vision Pro Establishes Mixed Reality as a Category

Meta’s return on its metaverse spending hasn’t been great. The company’s lost more than $40 billion to date and will lose billions more this year. Amid the losses, Meta’s struggled to sell virtual and augmented reality by itself. Without multiple major voices proclaiming the technology’s the real deal, mainstream developers and users haven’t jumped in at scale. But now, enter Apple. 

When Tim Cook introduced Apple’s Vision Pro, he turned mixed reality into a category, not just a theory. Apple’s glossy marketing showed a new vision for the technology — one that prioritized mixed reality over virtual reality — and lifted Meta’s efforts. With Apple’s devices coming in at $3,499+, Meta can offer cheaper headsets with a more developed ecosystem. Spotify, Netflix, and YouTube have so far declined to develop for the Vision Pro, a significant setback. And as Meta’s $499 Quest headsets deliver improved passthrough (blending the digital and physical worlds) the company should be able to offer functionality similar to Apple, if a bit worse, for the newly metaverse-curious.

Related Article: Where Apple’s Vision Pro Leaves Meta

Ad Tracking Restrictions Disproportionately Damaged Meta’s Competitors

In 2021, Apple began offering users an option to sever apps’ ability to track off-app. The move slammed advertising businesses that relied on connecting ad views with off-app purchases, a key gauge of effectiveness. At first, it seemed like Apple’s restrictions would hurt Meta most, since the company relied on that data to optimize ad placements. And indeed, Meta said Apple’s changes led to a $10 billion revenue hit in 2022. 


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