Meta has scrapped the development of its health and messaging-focused smartwatch, in an abrupt end to the company’s plans to directly compete with the Apple Watch.
Employees were reportedly told on Friday that work on its smartwatch project would be halted as part of a cost-cutting effort that will involve structural changes to the company.
Meta’s smartwatch development team will now switch to building augmented reality glasses, according to chief technology officer Andrew Bosworth, who runs Meta’s Reality Labs division.
Rumors about Meta’s plans to bring a smartwatch to market first appeared in February 2021, with reports indicating that the device had a detachable display with two built-in cameras for taking pictures and videos to share on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Early reports suggested Meta intended for the device to work using a cellular connection without the need for a tethered smartphone, and to run a version of Google’s Android software. Meta also planned to work with other companies to create accessories that would allow the detachable display to be attached on backpacks and similar items.
In addition to the demise of its smartwatch project, Meta’s internal reorganization will also bring an end to all Portal development, reports Reuters. First launched in 2018, Portal was a brand of smart display featuring video calling capabilities using exclusively Meta-owned services like WhatsApp and Facebook.
Despite the release of several versions, Portal never really took off as a consumer device, while Meta’s attempts to promote it in the enterprise market also failed. The company plans to continue selling smart displays under the Portal brand until the end of the year while supplies last.
The structural changes to Meta come shortly after the company laid off 11,000 people, or about 13% of its global workforce. Announcing the move in a note, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the layoffs were the combined result of his own poor decisions, macroeconomic downturn, increased competition, and ads signal loss, all of which resulted in lower-than-expected revenue.