Drones, Oculus, WhatsApp & the Future of Communication

Opinion

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playing hardcore video games or controlling iPads on Segways. It is about, to steal a phrase from Nokia, “connecting people.”

The real reason to acquire Oculus is to attract the best and the brightest to Facebook to work on cutting-edge technology. Whether the team comes up with anything that would appeal to the masses doesn’t matter. The Oculus team can be the breeding ground and focus point for hardware inside Facebook.

Think about what the Xbox did for Microsoft. Talent from that team helped spawn the Kinect, the Courier, and the Surface. Research from Oculus will be the foundation for set-top boxes, wearables, augmented-reality glasses, phones, and more. It’s not the first time Facebook has done this. To build Paper, Facebook took top talent from Gowalla, Tweetie, iBooks, and Push Pop Play.

Service

The last thing needed for a full-blown telco is the service. Enter WhatsApp. WhatsApp is the evolution of communication in the mobile app era. The iPhone made phones much more than calling and SMS. In much the same way, the next-generation of telco is no longer about voice and text exchange.

Will WhatsApp replace Facebook? Not necessarily. It won’t replace Paper, Instagram, or the core Facebook experience. In the long run, these services will be channels. In much the same way, we have ESPN, HBO, PBS, and Cartoon Network. Each service Facebook provides a different stream of content and interaction.

What’s Next

If the future of telecommunication is Google and Facebook, what will it look like? How will the future be any different? Well, it won’t change much. Human habits are hard to change. In some ways the user experience will be simpler. Contacting someone could be much more straight forward, where users only have to care about who they contact and not how they contact them. Much of the conversation around protocols such as LTE and Wi-Fi might go the way of the dodo, similar to how technology marketing used to focus on computer chips for sales. In other ways, there will be more options for interacting with people, as diverse as the sea of apps on app stores.

Remember, this is not the first time that Facebook and Google have been compared to telcos. We can see the outlines of the shadows of the strategy emerging from the darkness. If Internet companies are to be social utilities, then the entire philosophy of what they are leads to this ultimate conclusion. And what about the traditional telcos? It will be a game of margins until they are no longer needed. Net neutrality gave Internet companies a way to make profit and afford the resources to build a better foundation, one that doesn’t require traditional cables and towers.

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Michael Agustin co-founded Weaver, a next-generation messaging app that gives conversations visual context. Follow @michaelagustin

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2 responses to “Drones, Oculus, WhatsApp & the Future of Communication”

  1. Wayne says:

    For what its worth, the article incorrectly mentions Facebook and Titan Aerospace. Its Google and Titan Aerospace.

  2. patricknew says:

    I don’t disagree with the premise that there is a tremendous strategic advantage to being the primary pipe/source for data and connectivity to the consumer, but Fiber and drones are two very different approaches. In addition, the future of connectivity services needs to anticipate an IoT context, not just human-to-human communication services. It would also be useful to compare what other players (i.e. Telcos and MSOs, even Amazon) are doing, rather than assuming that Facebook or Google will be primarily redefine the future.