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Visionary or looney? Zuckerberg goes on spending spree

Facebook’s latest multibillion dollar acquisition of virtual reality headset maker Oculus is prompting some people to wonder if CEO Mark Zuckerberg is already living in an alternate reality.
By BARBARA ORTUTAY, Associated Press Published: March 26, 2014
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Facebook’s latest multibillion dollar acquisition of virtual reality headset maker Oculus is prompting some people to wonder if CEO Mark Zuckerberg is already living in an alternate reality.

Longtime technology analyst Roger Kay wonders whether Zuckerberg “is nuts” for agreeing to pay $2 billion for Oculus less than five weeks after inking a deal to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion.

Oculus, which got its start on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, doesn’t have a consumer product on the market, just the promise of bulky virtual reality goggles that have generated huge buzz in the video gaming community.

Zuckerberg, for his part, sees long-term implications in the technology, for communication, entertainment and beyond. He was right about mobile, and he’s created the world’s biggest online social network.

So, is he looney, or visionary?

“Mobile is the platform of today and now we’re starting to also get ready for the platforms of tomorrow. To me, by far the most exciting future platform is around vision or modifying what you see to create augmented and immersive experiences,” Zuckerberg said on a conference call Tuesday discussing the deal. “Today’s acquisition is a long-term bet on the future of computing. I believe Oculus can be one of the platforms of this future.”

Far-off promise?

Facebook’s investors seem to think Oculus’s promise is too far off. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based social networking company’s stock fell 7 percent on Wednesday to close at $60.38.

Beyond sticker shock, the WhatsApp and Oculus deals — along with the Facebook’s spurned offer to buy SnapChat for $3 billion— have raised questions about Facebook’s ability to innovate on its own. Some of the company’s most high-profile products, such as the SnapChat-like Poke, the messaging service Facebook Messenger and Home, have flopped. The jury’s still out on Paper, a stand-alone app that lets users read news, Facebook feeds and more.

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