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Google Glass and HoloLens clash in the enterprise en route to consumers

Changing a paradigm isn't easy. The inertia of the "usual way of doing things" can be very difficult to alter. This is particularly evident when you consider human behavior and the neurological, emotional, psychological and social aspects that contribute to habit formation and entrenched behavior. Couple these intangible internal human variables with technological challenges, limitations, costs and practical applications of new technology and it becomes abundantly clear why change is hard.

The concept of personal computing conjures images of someone sitting at a desk dutifully pecking away at a keyboard with eyes affixed to a screen. That vision began to undergo a metamorphosis within the last ten years, after the advent of the consumer-focused smartphone market. The mobility of smartphones combined with ever-increasing processing power and a virtual "swiss army knife" of apps has made personal computing an "anywhere" experience for "anybody" regardless of age or demographic.

The ideology of ever-present computing that has settled to the backdrop of our "new normal" has laid the groundwork for an eventual acceptance of a move of our "personal computers" from our pockets to our faces.

Heads up

Intermittent peeking at our digital world's via our smartphones has already transitioned to persistent peering at them during virtually any free (or not so free) moment. This has created a demand for smartphone etiquette, anti-texting while driving laws, a diminishing of social interactions and an appeal for people to raise their heads from their screens to interact with the people and world around them.

The coalescing of these factors are moving us toward a point where the increasingly persistent peering at our phones may be replaced with a perpetual and simultaneous viewing of a merger of our digital and physical worlds via AR smartglasses or headsets.

The consumer space isn't quite ready technologically, fiscally or socially for that shift, but the business world may be prepared to dive in head first.

Glass act

In 2012 Google introduced its slim AR headset Google Glass. The ambitious attempt to bring AR to consumers didn't meet with success, however. At $1500 the cost was prohibitive for many buyers, particularly since its limited use cases couldn't justify such an investment.

Concerns about privacy were also a barrier. The camera on Google Glass naturally led to uneasiness around surreptitious recording. Poor battery life, an aesthetically unappealing design, worries about constant exposure to radiation, no clear purpose and poor marketing also contributed to Google's shattered consumer Glass dreams.

Still, that wasn't the end of the story. For the past few years Google has continued investing in Glass and has recently divulged its enterprise focused progress and vision

Glass repair: Glass Enterprise Edition

Google Glass Enterprise Edition is a manifestation of Google's regrouping and applying its AR vision where the company felt it could succeed. For the past two years Google has worked with 30 expert partners building customized software and business solutions for Glass.

These efforts have resulted in Google forging partnerships with 50 companies such as GE, AGCO, Dignity, DHL, Volkswagon and others that have incorporated Glass within their business.

Google boasts that replacing physical manuals with text or videos viewed through Glass has increased worker's efficiency.

Google Glass versus manuals.

Google Glass versus manuals.

Glass, unlike HoloLens, is streamlined and can be attached to a regular pair of glasses or goggles. It projects information in a portion of a wearers field of view via a single display over the right eye. It does not provide the "immersive" experience the HoloLens creates via its displays in front of each eye.

Glass is also smartphone-dependent. Unlike HoloLens, it is more a smartphone accessory or peripheral, than a fully independent, self-contained computer. The less advanced Glass is likely much cheaper to make than the $3000 developer edition and $5000 enterprise editions of HoloLens.

Google has opened its enterprise Glass program to more businesses in hopes of forging additional partnerships.

HoloLens: Starting on the right foot

Microsoft, to the dismay of many fans who desperately want a HoloLens began its AR strategy by building partnerships and tailored solutions in the enterprise. Redmond accurately gauged the "lack of readiness" of the consumer space, and by skipping consumers (for the time being) avoided the disaster that befell Google with its first Glass attempt. Timing is everything.

For now, Microsoft is content to maintain its enterprise focus. The company boasts partners like NASA, the US military, the health care industry, the entertainment industry, the education sector and more.

Microsoft recently announced that the second version of HoloLens will have an AI coprocessor (opens in new tab) incorporated in the Holographic Processing Unit (HPU). The HPU is what enables the HoloLens to be the world's only fully self-contained holographic computer. This new AI coprocessor will enable the HoloLens to natively and flexibly implement deep neural networks (DNN).

The implementation of native DNN will allow the HoloLens to efficiently process the complex and enormous amounts of data that are received from the headset's range of sensors. The HoloLens, as a full Windows 10 computer, is a far more complex AR device than Google Glass. It's not dependent on any other device and is open to developers to create a range of applications that operate directly from the apparatus.

As a Windows 10 PC, users can execute familiar PC tasks on HoloLens as easily as they do enterprise-tailored AR solutions. It's a comprehensive device.

From the enterprise to the consumer

Personal computers in the workplace were critical to familiarizing users with PCs at the dawn of the personal computing era. In time use cases for Windows and productivity tools like Office began emerging for home-based scenarios. The cost and relevance challenges began falling in the face of greater consumer demand for PCs and the accompanying software. Ultimately as personal computing began to trickle, then flow to the consumer space, PC costs dropped resulting in a robust personal computing environment.

History may later reveal that smartphones and the mobile computing paradigm they introduced are a mere transitory phase to holographic or AR computing via wearables and not the mobile end game some perceive smartphones to be. To see that path one must take a long view and consider the shifts that are currently underway and not just the smartphone that is in their pockets.

During the early days of computers, there were naysayers who mocked the idea of a computer in the home. They were short-sighted. As holographic/AR computing becomes prevalent in the workplace, consumers will be made more familiar with it, and like PCs, relevance for home use may increase, and as it trickles into the consumer space costs will drop and applications for AR computing in the home will increase. Like PCs, wearable computers may become commonplace.

A PC on every face?

Microsoft's early goal was a PC on every desk and in every home. Its new goal may be a PC on every face.

The difference in this scenario is Microsoft does not have a virtual monopoly as it did with Windows, Office and the PC space. The enterprise space has two powerful companies courting it to accept two very different AR solutions. One, a full Windows 10 wearable PC, the other a light-weight Android-based wearable smartphone peripheral. We're still in the very early days of AR, and the likes of Apple, Magic Leap, and others may soon get involved.

Microsoft's advantage is that most corporate IT infrastructures run on Windows. If Microsoft leverages that position and offers HoloLens as part of the broader IT solution, it may have an edge.

AR is coming to the masses via wearable tech. Increasingly consumers will use it at work. The question is will it be Windows or Android-based? Or will Apple's ARKit be the wildcard? If Microsoft wins in the AR space, it could be the company's key back to OS dominance. Especially if Microsoft's ultimate mobile device or "Surface phone" vision ultimately is not a pocketable device at all, but is a pair of Windows 10 AR glasses with telephony.

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

52 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks!!! Holographic computing and AR, once the realm of science fiction, are now a reality. The nascent technology is in its very early stages, but at the rate technology evolves, we may all be wearing telephony-enabled AR glasses before we know it. Whose vision will we be wearing is the question. As noted in the article Microsoft's and Google's approaches are very different. One is a full standalone PC, the other a smartphone dependent peripheral. What will the enterprise embrace? What will appeal to consumers? What are your thoughts? LET'S TALK!!! And as always, if you didn't read, read first then comment! It makes the discussion more mature and engaging!
  • Well done Jason! AR is definately diverging into two paths. Smartphone and HMDs! To me it appears like Smartphone AR battle is half won by apple already! They have executed well and now just the world ground results are required in the next one year to decide who will win finally. Google had achieved all this tech a year before but could not bring it to the market like apple is about to do. To me it appears as if MS will have a better strong hold in enterprise then Apple/Google. This will ensure that Hololens/Mixed Reality won't be affected by ARkit. But as a general consumer, I will always doubt the MS efforts to streamline HL tech for consumer space or better say entertainment. This AR battle will be fought two times!  First battle: With the launch of HL ( it started in 2015) and first mainstream deliver of ARkit and fully delivered Day Dream project. Second Battle:  HL2.0 in 2019, Magic Leap (whenever they deliver), Apple (Whenever they deliver an HMD) and ODG going mainstream. The launch of HL in 2015, launch of ARkit in 2017 and launch of HL 2.0 in 2019 will be major deciding factors. Magic leap will be a black horse;")
  • i sometimes disagree with your articles, but this is right on the button. The initial manufacturing costs of things like graphene screen folding tablets, and full holographic HMD tech means that it is only possible as an enterprise product initially - as the computer, and the cellphone both once were. The technology needs to be refined for both, and the manu costs brought down, before it is "ready" for the consumer space. 
  • Its the exact say issue that faced computers, cellphones and also smartphones - high manufacturing costs, and immature supporting technology - software and hardware in this case. The niche uses of enterprise make that proposition still worth while, while software, hardware and costs are advanced. 
  • I'm pretty sure the Windows Mobile experiment proved the path to consumers is not through the enterprise. These fluff articles are getting tiring.
  • A comparison of two different approaches' of a nee personal computing paradigm is not fluff. Particularly when I point out in the article how Google brought Glass to consumers first but it failed for the reasons I identified in the post. I also identified how HoloLens was not brought to consumers first (wisely considering the unreadiness of the consumer market, costs, and immaturity of the tech) and targeted the enterprise first. Considering the costs, nascent stages if the tech Microsoft and now Google are finding early success in the enterprise with their early attempts. Something that did not (happen fir Google) and won't happen until the earlier mentioned barriers are resolved. Now your comparison to Windows Mobile and consumer failure was a totally different animal. By 2010 when MS brought WP to the consumer smartphone space Apple and (Google) Android had arrested the consumer mindshare and developer support. The smartphone market has been saturated for years and by the time MS got the OS to W10M, retrenched and focused on the enterprise, BYOD with consumers bringing iPhones and Android phones to work, an enterprise focus of WPs, (in an established market, smartphones) was not going to work. Even if WP succeeded in enterprise after retrnchment, the consumer space was already embracing iPhones and Android phones. AR wearables is a different scenario. There is barely a market, it is far from saturated, consumers don't have AR wearnales, and the enterprise is just embracing them. Unlike smartphones, consumers using AR at work will be exposing them to tech they are not likely using outside of work. This scenario, unlike smartphones has a greater likelihood of replicating the way PCs flowed from enterprise to consumers. Far from a fluff piece. Please reread,😉
  • The first cellphones were enterprise focused, as were the first smartphones. Don't know your tech history well do you? 
  • You are very wrong. The pc was an "enterprise product" mobiles were as well as were things like GPS and items that were once only found in luxury cars, they are now mainstream.
  • Good article showing that enterprise is the window to trying out Augmented Reality. I for the first time tried out a Samsung VR headset and I like it. I however don't think I will be using Virtual Reality outside a space I know I am safe and comfortable in, as in, I will not take a virtual headset to a cafe somewhere, I am completely locked out from the real world however Mixed or Augmented is certainly the future, Google Glass one can take it anywhere but with Ms Hololens it is only a few years out before a consumer version is out and with Windows being powerful I think Ms are on the right track to take consumers in a few years. Good article thanks
  • I appreciate the route Microsoft is taking, but they need to move faster and more aggressively to recruit developers and execute with a better hardware design. Microsoft should be signing deals with every museum and public attraction/theme park to have HoloLens for visitors. Offer the headset to passengers on airlines and trains. The Surface team is capable of far better design than HoloLens v1. The price has to either come way down or the hardware has to get much more powerful. If MS is afraid of the consumer market then get Huawei, LG or some other talented consumer electronics company to design a consumer focused HoloLens. Make the headset compatible with the new motion controllers and get the Xbox team working with game developers to create experiences for HoloLens. Create an in-car mode for HoloLens and sign a deal with Tesla and other car manufacturers to offer safe unobtrusive heads-up display features via Bluetooth (Speedometer, GPS, Cortana, music, phone).
  • Well said
  • Wow! some of us are living in an alternate universe.  You do know hololens is not yet ready to be deploy and operate in most of those locations you mention here.  Where are you going to put the wires? What about the pc it needs to attached to?  You make it sounds like they don't want to do those things.  Wake up, come back to reality?
  • You do know that Hololens doesn't need wires or a pc ? Oh, and is already used in museums....
  • Maybe it's just me, but I'm not too keen on putting something on my head that several hundred other people have put on their heads before me...
  • Why do they need to move faster? The tech is too expensive for consumers (ie manufacturing costs), and no one else has a true competitor product. They are about as early in a market, as one possibly can be. 
    This comes off as a niave comment, sorry to say. 
  • You right about no competitor yet, but you can see Apple making a HMD device in five years or so (using the technology developed by others, then licensed) but already having the thousands of off the shelf ARkit apps to run on it. Meanwhile the MS glacial speed machine will still be in 'testing with selected partners' and going for the 'niche' market.
  • I can see only limited development crossover between AR on a smartphone, and AR on a holographic display. Think about it, the input methods are different (touch versus gestures, and gaze), the display tech is different - tiny screen versus FOV. MSFT already has a bunch of UWP apps running on hololens, essentially running it as a version of windows, but ARkit provides zero motivation for virtual windows or virtual desktops because its on a tiny phone screen. And honestly running full app windows, and displays is one of the main benefits of AR wearables. Apple needs to catch up on the actual OS implementation, and the hardware if its to have a real competitor product. Having a few dinky virtual apps that iphone users may or may not use, like some kids games and something for measuring stuff or testing out a new chair, isn't going to push thousand dollar units off the shelf.  The other thing worth mentioning, is that while apple is designing its first device - there will be the first hololens, and the true glasses form factor display MSFT is also got in development. Whilst microsoft works on expanding UWP apps and developing high end software for AR enterprise applications, and rolling out its ar/vr centric fluent design system, it also releases its "mixed reality" HMD late this year - a software system that essentially crosses over with the hololens to at least a large degree (only difference is its a virtualized room instead of a real one). Its apple that's playing catch up here. 
  • Wow.  MS needs to get off their ass.  see how sleek those google glasses are instead of the UFO esque uglyness of the hololens.  Come on MS.  you can do it.  
  • Either way, years & years away from becoming close to mainstream.
  • Two completely different experiences. Sounds like you've resorted to trolling without info on the product at this point.
  • Seems to me it sounds like you've resorted to being a blind ass fanboy who has no open mind at all.  And NO its not to completely different experiences...the only difference is one is a gigantic football helmet shaped thing and the other is a sleek pair of glasses giving the same experience...thanks for being a blind fanboy again axman.  And since you obviously don't read what I say...just blindly fanboy ***** about anyone who does not suck nutellas penis,  You would see where I said COME ON MICROSOFT.....YOU CAN DO IT.   MEANING I WANT MS to have a SLEEK a/r headset.  G/G does not need to be "wired" to a computer either...connects wirelessly to your phone.  NO difference than hololens in experince other than the fact you have a garganutan bowl with the computer in it on your head.  SO please...stop your fanboy ********...thanks!
  • It's pretty sad that you think I'm fanboying. I said nothing negative about glass, just that they are different experiences. Glass is meant to be a stripped down AR device that assists with, well, anything a programmer can think of. I've actually used one here at my office and it has a lot of uses. It CANNOT however display images near what hololens can so it is very much limited in that aspect. It's seriously funny how easy it is to troll you, I wasn't even trying that time. And you got riled up enough to prove you don't even understand what either product really is. It's like comparing a car (glass) to a truck (hololens) the car can be great and most people only ever need that, but sometimes you just need the extra utility of the truck.
  • If you've used Glass, what improvements could be made? Realistically, not the 'make it the only ultimate mobile device of ultimate power muhaha' improvements. FOV too small? Battery life OK? Glitchy? Easily misplaced? Just curious.
  • I wouldn't use the term FOV. Things displayed seem just out of my natural focus. Super easy to adjust to, but needs some tweaking. I'd also like to see a truly 'universal' unit. I want to be able to connect them to any piece of eyewear or headwear.
  • The capability of Google glass vs hololens is something I highlighted in a comment I made in another article and I think a lot of people gloss over that. Yes Google glass might be more sleek and light, but I doubt it can do as much as hololens. It comes down to what people want these AR/mixed reality type of devices to be able to do. The balance of having enough practical use vs the bulkiness of the hardware. Obviously over time the hardware will get smaller/lighter while being more capable.
  • Oh and by the way, hololens has its own CPU and GPU. It's wireless and doesn't require your phone.
  • SO what...that does not make them any better in the end if your phone does the same thing and your not wearing a bucket on your head....You were the one claiming I was just "trolling" as you whiny little fanboys like to say....which I WAS NOT.  But unlike others,  you cannot see past anything that does not fit your views...like a typical fanboy!  ha ha...your so funny and easy to rile up speaking of which. 
  • I never said either was better. I also told you they don't do the same thing.
  • Steve come on, MS doesnt deserve bashing here, Google glass V1 was pretty basic and this one as well will severly be limited in that form factor, The Tech is not yet there to put the functionality of hololens into a form factor of google glass.
  • I did not bash them.  I said they need to make HOLO small,  compact like google glasses.   I think hololens is sick  but not for mainstream consumer use.  it's like wearing a beef bucket.  They can build the headset as a pair of glasses,  and run off your mobile device.   I know they can do it.   I WANT THEM TO DO IT.  I only call MS out for their total mismanagement of 1.  Mobile.  They had a bit of momentum,  but then **** the bed.  and 2.  The mismanagement of updates and forward movement.  I am typing this on my dell 2 in 1,  I will never use macOS as my main device....NEVER.   Windows 10 is miles and miles ahead of MacOS in every way.  I will not use a windows mobile device AT ALL...unless they get all the apps I have on my iphone on windows mobile..and have a good following an forward momentum after a couple of years back in the market place.  Everyone here are little snowflakes if someone says ANYTHING bad about anything microsoft.  I am a REALIST.  NOT a troll, fanboy of apple/google/etc.  Unfortunately there are many here who are little fangirls who cannot handle anything said against MS.   EVEN WHEN IT'S TRUE!    I LOVE MS.   I really do.  I use all MS services on my iphone from bing, to one note to one drive.  I use apple music as it is a better service for my family.  But,  I love my windows 10 devices.   But I am not a blind fanboy who thinks it's not without faults.....
  • Woot.  More fangirl downvotes.   Keep it up crybabies.   The truth hurts.  
  • Google glasses is just a flat 2D screen in the corner of your vision, that requires a smartphone to run. Essentially its just a screen.The tech is nothing like the hololens tech, which is an immersive 3d holographic experience that maps the world around you and tracks hand gestures. The two are galaxies apart. 
  • What happens when you have to scratch your nose? Accidentally bought 9000 shares of Boeing or something I suppose.
  • It uses "air taps" instead of mouse clicks, and that isn't really a normal gesture. 
  • Yes so sleek and amazing, with a fov so small you have to look up and to the left to see anything at all. Amazing! 
  • It makes sense that industry and enterprise is coming first. That's how it was with PC and smart phones. Remember that iPhone wasn't the first smartphone, just the first one designed for everyone, not just business-type people. In fact, I'm finding that those outside IT get their first experience with HoloLens at work. As the technology develops, it'll work its way into the consumer space.
  • Those things (pc, smartphone) went the enterprise route because at the time it made sense and  because of the high costs.  That is no longer the case.  Microsoft is going that route because they lost mobile and that is their only avenue.  Google tried it in the consumer space first and failed, until they realize a niche group was using it in specialized area/field so they now trying to jump on it.  The enterprise was not their first option, it's the only one they have available to them.
  • AR holographic HMD are also expensive, and it also makes sense. And the google glass is also expensive, and it also makes sense. Your objection to this comment makes no sense on the other hand. Glass and HL both make sense as enterprise products for the exact reasons computers, smartphones and cellphones in general did - high manufacturing costs, and not yet mature software and hardware. 
  • Well, Apple would disagree.
    And they're about to prove themselves right once again with ARKit.
  • Snapchat filter technology etc has existed for a long time. Its not going to compete with HMD holographics. 
  • Doesn't it make more sense to have a somewhat dumb display tethered to a smartphone than a full on computer on your head? Obviously some scenarios where one is preferable to the other but in general that seems the most logical approach. Like having a 4k monitor and upgrading/swapping hardware & software as need be with a desktop.
  • I'm not so sure that is most logical. I think it depends on how mobile people want this experience to be which is the only issue I have with the computer analogy. If people want this to be something they can throw in their bag or easy to use on the go, then I feel like right now a dumb display tethered to a phone wouldn't really work or sell well. 
  • I was more referencing the enterprise focus of these devices. This isn't coming to the consumer market for years. A stock Android device customized with whatever software & apps needed coupled with a wireless tether to the headset seems more affordable and upgradable for the business market. Likely much longer battery life as well.
  • In the long run its just an extra thing to carry. 
  • What, the phone that everyone already carries? As opposed the hololens helmet? Glass seems less obtrusive, hololens more imersive but clunkier.
  • The current hololens is a prototype, an alpha stage. Finale release will likely be lighter. What I said tho was - "in the long run". MSFT is also working on a "true glasses" form factor holographic display, and that is a display only so would also require an external driver when they finish it. In the short term it may make sense to keep the phone when focused on mobility (or not, if you are focused on immersion/display quality - holographic display requires specialised hardware to map the environment). In the long run, if it can be eliminated so you just have a pair of glasses, that makes more sense to me. I already wear shades most of everywhere. Swap the lenses for transitions and toss the brick in the pocket, and i reckon thats more mobile. Plus who really needs the tiny screen when you have screens as big as you want them anywhere. We'll probably see both for awhile, with the phone tethered variety offering a simpler, more limited experience, as it does with VR. 
  • Jason wrote a beautiful article and insisted that readers have a mature and engaging discussion. Some of these guys here in the comment are so disrespectful. Sad
  • So, based on the last paragraph, will we have Surface Lens next year?
  • Most companies are planning on 5-10 more years before mainstream adoption. I tend to think that's a bit optimistic unless the tech makes significant leaps sooner than expected.
  • Ten years sounds about right. Thats the time from the first cellphones to consumer adoption. The time from enterprise smartphones to consumer smartphones. 
    But it would have to FIRST be released as a real product to enterprise, and the ten years ish would be FROM THEN, not now.  The hololens I beleive is slated for release in 2019? 
  •  Especially if Microsoft's ultimate mobile device or "Surface phone" vision ultimately is not a pocketable device at all, but is a pair of Windows 10 AR glasses with telephony.
    In such a case, you'd need to wear those glasses more or less constantly to be the main companion (as the smartphone is today). You need them doing sports, shopping, dating, working, traveling, and whatnot. Else you'll not able to respond to calls, take a quick picture, pay, ask for a UBER taxi, etc. Technology leaps and not only evolution will be needed to allow them to function over a full day without being heavy and disturbing the comfort, and without the need to carry with you some "energy storage / compute power unit" in your pocket. If not, you will not see broad adpotion. If you ever have weared "above average" weighing glasses, no matter how clever designed they are, you'll know the pain they produce after some hours. There is definitly no appeal to take 100+ grams shaped as glasses with you.  
  • They should release top hi end one for work, cheaper for enterprise. Would get cheaper then.