Last week, Meta was forced to slash its workforce by around 13%, meaning over 11,000 employees were let go.
While the departmental breakdown wasn’t revealed, Zuckerberg’s blog post on the news stated that the company would prioritise “high priority growth areas” including the AI discovery engine, advertising and the metaverse.
Now Reuters has revealed what this means for Meta’s hardware plans. The site reports two immediate casualties revealed in a company town hall meeting: Portal — the smart screen device dedicated to video calls — and the company’s long-rumored Meta Watch wearable.
While it’s easy to assume that cancelling an unreleased product won’t be that big a hit to the company’s bottom line, that underestimates exactly how much time and money Meta had already put into it. The smartwatch concept was reportedly far enough along for there to be at least two generations planned.
The first generation was set to be unique in the smartwatch world by focusing on photography and video. Along with the usual fitness tracking abilities, reports suggested that the device would have had a removable face — like the discontinued Fitbit Blaze — with a camera on both the front and back. The former would be for video calls from the wrist, while the latter would allow better-quality photos and video to be taken for easy sharing on Facebook and Instagram.
According to the Reuters report, those working on the smartwatch will be relocated to work on augmented reality glasses, where Meta looks to build on its Ray-Ban Stories — another device that allows the easy sharing of video to Instagram and Facebook.
As for Portal, Meta had already retreated somewhat from its original aim, and since June had been targeted purely at business users. But even this wasn’t enough to save it, with Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth reportedly saying it would take Portal too long to become a major player in the space (an earlier Information report pegged it as having just 1% of the total market).
“It was just going to take so long, and take so much investment to get into the enterprise segment, it felt like the wrong way to invest your time and money,” he is quoted as saying. It’s unclear if this means Meta will immediately stop selling Portal and when support for the device will end.
Unmentioned in the report is Meta’s Quest line of virtual reality headsets. But, presumably, the Quest division is safe as long as the metaverse remains a priority for the company. And for now, despite general industry scepticism and disinterested employees, that appears to be the case.