Facebook Oculus Chief Stepping Down in Reorganization

Facebook Inc.’s Oculus Rift is reorganizing, with Chief Executive Officer Brendan Iribe stepping down from the role to lead a new division of the virtual reality headset maker.

Oculus is creating two groups, one focused on PCs and the other on mobile, Iribe wrote in a blog post. He’ll be leading the PC unit, and Jon Thomason, who joined Oculus in August as its head of software, will take over the mobile group. Iribe said he, Thomason and Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer will work together to find a new leader for Oculus. A spokeswoman for the company said that leader of the Oculus teams wouldn’t hold the title of CEO but didn’t provide further details about the role.

Brendan Iribe

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

“With our growth and product strategy, we’ve decided to establish new PC and mobile VR groups to be more focused, strengthen development and accelerate our road map,” he said in the post. “Facebook is committed to working on VR for the long term.”

Iribe, who co-founded Oculus with Palmer Luckey, has pushed for the company to replicate Alphabet Inc.’s success with spreading the Android operating system. Under his leadership, Oculus struck partnerships with other hardware producers to distribute the company’s software. For example, the company’s headsets and Samsung Electronics Co.’s Gear VR both work on the same platform. While the Oculus Rift device requires connection to a fast PC with a powerful graphics card to work properly, Gear VR content only requires the computing power of a smartphone. 

As of the second quarter, more than 1 million people a month were using Oculus via mobile devices. Last quarter, Facebook said it would invest an additional $250 million in VR content. Games dominate the content available on the Oculus Rift headset, while most people use the mobile-type devices to watch 360-degree videos available on platforms like Facebook 360 and YouTube 360.

This past year was expected to be a big one for virtual reality, with Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive and Sony’s Playstation VR hitting the consumer market. These three are considered the higher-end headsets that can power much more immersive experiences and high-resolution VR games. But they haven’t lived up to expectation. According to Superdata Research, an estimated 1.52 million units of these devices will be shipped to consumers this year, with Oculus taking the smallest share.

Facebook in 2014 bought the gaming-focused virtual reality headset company for about $2 billion, betting that VR will be a preferred method of communication and computing in the future. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also talked about creating a social experience in virtual reality. The company declined further comment about the Oculus changes.

— With assistance by Joshua Brustein

(Corrects to clarify that the new leader won’t hold the title of CEO in second paragraph.)
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