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Microsoft's entry into metaverse tainted by Facebook's Meta rebrand

By Shannon Williams
Tue 9 Nov 2021

Microsoft's announcement of Mesh for Microsoft Teams at the Ignite conference and its foray in the ‘metaverse’ has been tainted by the criticism of Facebook's rebranding to Meta last week, one expert believes.

J.P. Gownder:, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, says the timing of the announcement juxtaposes the genuine potential of Mesh with widespread criticism of Facebook's rebranding as Meta and its rollout of its own avatar-based Presence Platform. 

"Enterprise leaders remain skeptical of Meta's approach, evincing concern about Facebook's commitment to security, privacy, and ethics. Given the similarity of the two announcements, Microsoft may be painted with the same broad brush," he says.

Gownder says people should remember that Microsoft Teams for enterprise has world-class security features in place and that Microsoft's enterprise bona fides aren't in question.

"The bigger question is what users will think about this new interface, which resembles a video game. Yet the need for connection in the world of hybrid work tells us there's promise as well as peril, as long as we can distinguish between Meta and Microsoft's respective strengths," he says.

Gownder says Microsoft's announcement that avatars and spaces based on its forward-looking Mesh technology will come to Teams in 2022 is a welcomed evolution. 

"As we describe in our report, Your Virtual Office In The Cloud, anywhere-work and the hybrid office future will require more collaboration tools than we have today."

Gownder says videoconferencing has proven to be exhausting. 

"Zoom fatigue, caused by too much eye contact, places a high cognitive load on employees’ brains. Synchronous messaging can be helpful but it doesn't take the place of a meeting, with all its social cues. Asynchronous "Teams" — like Slack Channels — offer a traditional social media experience but nothing immersive. So there's a gap in the interaction model," he explains.

“Enter Microsoft Mesh for Teams, which allows people to move around in a virtual space, collaborate on documents, hold conversations, and even encounter one another serendipitously. Teams will bring in avatars, and not just generic ones; expressions will light up based on real cues, like emotion you express in your voice. It's part of a plan to bring Mesh technology to Teams and to connect Teams, eventually, to AltSpace. It's part of Microsoft's broader metaverse vision for the enterprise, and perhaps beyond."

At Facebook's annual Connect conference last week, Mark Zuckerberg shared his vision for the 'metaverse' and how Facebook will take part in building the future.

To reflect this new chapter for the company, Zuckerberg announced Facebook was rebranding to Meta.

He said the metaverse will be a social, 3D virtual space where users can share immersive experiences with other people, even when they can't be together in person - and do things together they couldn't do in the physical world.

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