Facebook's Oculus Shakes Up Management

By Evan Niu, CFA Markets Fool.com

Facebook's (NASDAQ: FB) Oculus VR subsidiary is hiring! And I'm not talking about the dozens of standard job openings listed on its site; Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe is stepping down.

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Iribe made the surprise announcement last night on the Oculus blog. As Oculus has grown since being acquired by Facebook two years ago, the company has now decided to split into two segments: one focusing on PC virtual reality (VR) and another that will concentrate on mobile VR. By having two different teams, Oculus will be better able to tailor its roadmaps for each market segment's unique needs.

Iribe will be leading the PC VR group, while new hire Jon Thomason will be in charge of mobile VR. Thomason joined Oculus in August, but has quite a bit of experience in engineering with some recent mobile-related positions. Oculus management will work with Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer to find "a new leader."

Why ask why?

Iribe says that he is stepping down so that he can get back to engineering and product development, which he says are the areas he's most passionate about. He says that he's "missed the deep, day-to-day involvement in building a brand new product on the leading edge of technology." After all, Iribe started off his career as a game programmer and interface designer, and high-level management may not satisfy him professionally anymore. Iribe also founded and served as CEO of Scaleform, which provided video game user interfaces before being acquired in 2011.

This rationale isn't unheard of. In fact, Facebook poached David Marcus a couple years ago to lead Messenger, and Marcus was open to joining for exactly the same reason: He wanted to get back to building new products.

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Two is better than one

It makes sense that Oculus would split into two divisions, since that's precisely what's happening in the market for the time being as consumers explore VR technology. There are full-blown headsets like Rift, HTC's Vive, or Sony's PlayStation VR, which cost quite a bit but offer more immersive experiences with better graphics and dedicated controllers. And then there are mobile VR headsets where you basically just strap a smartphone to your face and call it a day.

Gear VR. Image source: Oculus.

Oculus previously collaborated with Samsung to make Gear VR, and many smartphone players continue to explore mobile headsets. These are little more than affordable accessories, so they're more approachable since most people already have smartphones these days.

At least that's what mobile VR is today. Oculus is already working on a stand-alone VR headset that doesn't need to be powered by or tethered to a PC, but will offer better performance than a smartphone. The company demonstrated a stand-alone prototype, code-named Santa Cruz, in October, but such products are still in the early innings of development.

For now, you can think of mobile VR being for casual, exploratory use that introduces consumers to the experience, while PC VR will be for high-end enthusiasts. As with all technology, new ideas that are costly to develop will start out at the top and eventually filter down to the masses.

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Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.