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Ex-politico turned Meta hype man brands Metaverse 'new heart of computing'

Stop sniggering at the back. 'We're going to stick with it', says Nick Clegg. Unlike Disney

Meta’s head of global affairs was wheeled out this week to say the Metaverse is still going be a thing in the future, soon after Disney – once an exponent of this brave new virtual world – ditched its own plans.

Nick Clegg, a former UK deputy prime minister who joined Meta in 2018, held a meeting via Meta’s Horizon Workrooms with a bunch of press that joined through Meta Quest headsets they’d been sent. For clarity, The Reg wasn’t among them.

The avatar created for the Meta exec was seated at a virtual wooden table dressed in a virtual blue blazer and white collared shirt, and by one account looked like the man himself.

“We’re going to stick with it,” Clegg said of the Metaverse, “because we really believe, all the evidence suggests, that something like this will be the heart of the new computing platform.”

“But it’s going to take a while,” he added.

Confirmation that Meta is still behind the project isn’t a massive surprise, given the billions of dollars the company has sunk into creating this virtual space, admitting failure might be too much for twitchy shareholders. So far Meta has created VR headsets, software, and an app distribution platform with the money it has spent on the project.

Turning its vision into a reality is taking longer than expected and spending more on it might seem at odds with Meta’s so-called Year of Efficiency, one in which it is eking out cost savings, with measures including chopping 20k+ staff.

Disney’s Metaverse business was designed to give viewers a more immersive experience – the next-generation of storytelling – but it came to an abrupt end this week with the announcement that the small division was being eliminated amid 7,000 job cuts across the corporation.

According to a report, Disney’s plan for the Metaverse still wasn't apparent a year after the business unit formed. Disney’s not alone: last month Microsoft reportedly put a bullet in its industrial Metaverse masterplan amid confirmation of 10,000 group job cuts.

McKinsey estimated that $177 billion was invested in the Metaverse by businesses from the start of 2021 until September the following year. And Gartner forecasts that by 2026, 25 percent of the world will spend an hour a day in this virtual world. Conversely, analysts at Canalys said they think Metaverse business projects will be dead by 2025.

Clegg told reporters in the virtual meeting this week that advertising and commerce were two revenue streams for the Metaverse. He said sectors like gaming and fitness had embraced virtual worlds and education and healthcare would too.

The problem is that shareholders may be running out of patience with the constant promises of this tomorrow-tech. As Bloomberg pointed out, when one reporter asked a question, the mouths of three avatars moved.

“I just really want to stress that we’re going to look back on the hardware we’re wearing now and think: ‘Gosh, do you remember the days where you would wear a Quest Pro?'” said Clegg. “We’ve always been very clear that we’re in this for the long haul. This is not going to happen overnight”.

The clock is ticking. ®

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