Facebook aka Meta Looks to Open Physical Stores

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A week after a name change to Meta, reflecting its aspirations for the so-called metaverse virtual world, the company formerly known as Facebook is looking to open physical stores to sell gadgets associated with its new vision, according to a report in the New York Times.

Plans call for stores worldwide, according to the Times, citing people familiar with the matter and internal documents. Branding discussions went around the horn, the paper reported, with names under consideration progressing through Facebook Hub, Facebook Commons, Facebook Innovations, Facebook Reality Store and From Facebook, before the purported winner being just The Facebook Store.

The stores would sell hardware like Oculus virtual reality headsets and Portal devices for video chats over Facebook, from the company’s Reality Labs division, moving on eventually to augmented reality devices. Meta has also partnered with Ray Ban on a pair of voice activated sunglasses for taking photos and videos, the Times reports.

While the plan may or may not go forward, there are several precedents for technology companies opening their own stores, dating back to defunct computer maker Gateway, with its distinctive cow-like packaging. More recent examples include Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

There have been some smaller scale forays into physical retail by Meta in recent years, including pop-up kiosks at airports, a pop-up store offering Oculus products in Manhattan and another within Macy’s stores in 2018, the Times reported.

According to internal documents viewed by the Times, the Meta stores will make the world “more open and connected,” conjuring up emotions like “curiosity, closeness,” feeling “welcomed” in a “judgment free journey,” according to the documents.

The article opined that founder Mark Zuckerberg is seizing the moment to pivot into what he believes to be the future of computing, even if only at the enthusiast/geek stage at this point. At the same time, it can free Meta from the constraints of apps only available at download stores controlled by competitors Google and Apple.

MCM Musings: The variety of product that would be available off the dime in a Meta store seems limited at this point. Also, a significant buy-in to the “Tron”-like or “Minority Report”-like world of the metaverse – by a critical mass of consumers able to shed the creepy factor – will be required to make the concept really take off. Privacy concerns that have dogged Facebook and other tech giants will certainly also be in the Meta mix, as it seeks a hardware life raft away from reliance on a massive but shrinking app user base.