Why it makes sense for Microsoft to debut HoloLens 2 at Mobile World Congress 2019

MWC 2019

Microsoft is heading back to Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. The company's event will take place on Sunday, February 24 – and, yes, it will be live-streamed. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Corporate Vice President Julia White, and Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman will be in attendance, which strongly hints at what Microsoft will reveal.

Kipman worked on Microsoft's Kinect sensor technology for Xbox. That tech was later integrated into what we now know as Microsoft HoloLens, another one of his projects. Kipman is fond of saying smartphones are "dead", while talking up the future of holographic computing, so his attendance at Mobile World Congress seems ... interesting.

However, there's likely a good reason why a sequel to HoloLens may be revealed at an event focused on mobility.

What we expect and know about Microsoft HoloLens 2

There are five main components that we expect to be featured in HoloLens 2:

  1. Increased, or even double, the field of view (FOV).
  2. Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 with 4G LTE.
  3. Qualcomm XR1 VR chipset.
  4. New dedicated AI coprocessor.
  5. Runs Window Core OS ("Oasis").

That's in addition to the usual hardware refinements in quality, comfort, size and weight reduction with any significant hardware revamp.

Let's break down what each of those five new features means.

Nearly one year ago, I stated that any next version of HoloLens would likely feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Why? For one, Intel Atom (the processor in the first version) is effectively dead, with no real replacement on deck for a HoloLens 2.

Windows 10 on ARM brings exceptional battery life, and 4G LTE for always-connected experiences away from a Wi-Fi network, and the components are much smaller than an x86 chipset, allowing for a smaller wearable computer.

While the consumer angle for HoloLens is still missing, for professional use it is not. Microsoft recently signed up the U.S. Army for a $480 million contract for HoloLens, and companies wishing to use the holographic computer "out in the field" would love a cellular version versus one that relies on Wi-Fi.

That makes the "made for Windows" Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 an ideal candidate for HoloLens 2 (the new Snapdragon 8cx may be overkill and too new).

Microsoft's holographic chief Alex Kipman will be at MWC 19.

Microsoft's holographic chief Alex Kipman will be at MWC 19.

Related to the Qualcomm main processor theory is the likely usage of Qualcomm's XR1 VR chip. The XR1 also supports head-tracking, spatial sound, and 4K video at up to 60 frames per second (FPS).

Back in July 2017, Executive Vice President of Microsoft's AI Research Group Harry Shum confirmed that HoloLens 2 will sport a dedicated AI coprocessor alongside its central silicon, the holographic processing unit (HPU).

That new AI hardware will allow for deep neural networks (DNNs) to let HoloLens better tackle intensive tasks, such as image and voice recognition without relying on sending data to the cloud to be processed.

Finally, there is the software. HoloLens 2 is expected to feature a version of Windows 10 built on Windows Core OS. This version of Windows 10 is codenamed Oasis, and it is a Mixed Reality-specific experience. HoloLens 2 will also feature CShell, Microsoft's new adaptable UI that works across all device types.

Microsoft's vision of mobile is different

Announcing HoloLens 2 with 4G LTE and running a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor at Mobile World Congress would be a smart move.

While the world is currently focused on (and getting bored with) smartphones, Microsoft is carving out a different path for mobile computing. The company is focusing on one of its strengths: productivity.

That's why I've been saying Windows on ARM and Always-Connected PCs are so crucial to the future of Windows – they are the bridge for mobile computing. A truly mobile HoloLens 2 with excellent battery life that can be worn for hours and running Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps is an exciting breakthrough for surgeons, soldiers, technicians, race car drivers, museums, engineers, and more.

Mobile computing at Mobile World Congress makes sense, and maybe Microsoft returning for the first time in years is the start of a new era.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • I would gladly give them a reasonable amount of my money for a consumer version of the HoloLens. I have wanted one of these since first announced.
    Sometimes I feel MS waits on the great product while everyone else releases good products and they are then out of the race because they never stepped up to the line.
    Not that there is much released like the HoloLens but hopefully I am making my point.
  • As someone who owns a HoloLens and is a consumer I struggle to explain why you would want one, or to what use you would put it towards. Sure, it's cool. But it's definitely not something I put on every morning, or even once a month. Microsoft not pushing this towards consumers is the right choice. It's just way too early. There's nothing it quite solves or makes easier for consumers - not yet. Meanwhile, it's thriving for surgery, military, engineers, etc. With no pressure from the finicky consumer market Microsoft can work with partners and make HoloLens really refined, instead of "too early". Being first with such tech rarely works out. When HoloLens is just a pair of glasses, or it can switch between AR/VR, it'll be ready for consumers.
  • :-) Still want one. :-D
    Hey! Send me yours! :-D
  • lol, no way, it's now a collector's item ;)
  • Hopefully not like my many HD DVD players and numerous windows phones :-)
  • and zune devices
  • I think citing a consumer device that was never popular and that ended production 8 years ago is not a convincing argument, especially since NO ONE USES STANDALONE MP3 PLAYERS IN 2019. C'mon, guys. I get you like grudges, but this one is so stupid.
  • Playing Devil's advocate here... what about gaming? Isn't that Magic Leap's main draw? If Microsoft can make it responsive enough surely those that already spend $2000 on a gaming rig are willing to fork out that much for a device like this.
  • I think that was the original plan, but it'd make more sense once they can do VR/AR on the same device for gaming imo. Not sure people will pay $2k for some space shooter or something.
  • It's not good for the standard type of gaming experiences we have right now, is the problem. The tech demos of games they've shown off so far are the sorts of things that appeal to a more mainstream audience and are exactly the opposite of the types of visually immersive games that people who will spend $2000 on a rig tend to be interested in. Like, that market segment tends to be hostile to the kinds of games that work best in AR, at least currently. So that won't work. They need to make a case for basic office productivity first, which they haven't quite gotten to yet - they're still in the phase of highly specialized work loads - and then they need to get to basic media consumption and household tasks having already done that. And even then it's unlikely that AR will go mainstream until it's more like a pair of glasses than a headset. But if there's a strong enough business use case and the price point and capabilites are decent enough, people will get them for work, get used to them, bring them home, etc. And that'll be the start of the shift. They'll replace laptops first.
  • This always interested me also for a HoloLens. Check out this expertly written article. :-)
  • This is the most easiest and most important feature for a consumer version of Hololens.
    We just need to have version which is light enough and produce acceptable Colors on display!
  • I definitely see a consumer use case for this! Our workspaces are completely dominated by giant monitors. To be able to pull up an entire workstation using the entirety of the space in your room without having to design your home office around a stationary screen would be life-changing, and would both allow us to work in more places as well as better organize/enjoy the designated office we do have. The final form of the consumer-grade version of Hololens will be a day one purchase for me.
  • There is a marketing technique called early adopters. In this case, an engineer is more likely to use a technology if it makes him more productive and be willing to pay $2K. In the summer of 1988, I worked in a government lab and we installed 12 $15K Sun workstations. During Lunch, all systems login in and everyone started flying against each other in dogfights. Now we have Xbox. Hololens was introduced 5 years ago. Well in another 15 years, we will be far along in the tech development curve where most peoples current dreams become everyone's daily expectations.
  • Spot-on. In my US based company, in the corporate HQ, they are using at least 100 of these on R&D projects. What I learn from the pro users is that they are extremely excited about the technology and (more important) the very strong support from MS (it seems to be a very bi-directional process where both parties learn from each other how to further fine-tune specs and requirements).
  • > As someone who owns a HoloLens...every morning, or even once a month.
    Very true. If you are not a programmer, HoloLens at this state, is not for you. You'd be disappointed since there's nothing much for you to do. If you are a game programmer, you'd have plenty of fun time every day.
  • > definitely not something I put on every morning It is not now, but what about when it will get smaller and lighter and always connected, with a better input?
  • Sure, that's the point I'm making. It's definitely not there right now, and I'm not expecting it with v2, but love to be surprised.
  • So no one is not saying anything about the fact that this hololens will be able to make and receive calls?
  • Skype has always been there ;) Not sure "making cell calls" is a priority for a holographic computer.
  • Today companies pays 100k of $ to set up tele-presence room so yes a would say "making cell calls" should be a priority. All added ability to show presentations, walk thru solutions and so on would actually make this togather with 5G a ideal TP room killer.
  • Tele-presence and virtual presentations is the reason Microsoft bought out AltspaceVR.
    We'll see that tech being integrated into the WinMR home experience as sharing your virtual workspace with other people instead of the current separate app, and using Xbox avatars for virtual presence.
    Once we have video and spatial workspace sharing, you won't want to use cell-based voice-only calls anyway.
  • Look at Google Glasses. They rushed to push that into the consumer market and now where did it go?
  • This is also supposed to feature the new Kinect for Azure depth camera, right?
  • Think I've heard that name from a conference, think that's the camera they are going for.
  • Rumor has it that both the new depth-sensing camera and (drumroll please.....) DOUBLE the Field of View!!! (finally.) The FOV limitation is a big issue with HoloLens 1. If they can double that, it will make it much, MUCH more usable. Add in eye-tracking and they will have a great device.
    An 850 seems a forgone conclusion at this point (possibly an 855 or custom version of said chip too. If they would put in an 855 with 5G that would be awesome and solve the latency issues (mostly due to the weak CPU in the Atom they currently use and WiFi chip.)
    What they also need to show is a new plug-in for the new version of Visual Studio for writing your own HoloLens apps.
  • Why do you keep referring to it as Hololens 2? Alex Kipman or someone said they skipped version two because it wasn't enough of an improvement over the first iteration. They should be announcing HoloLens 3
  • You know darn well it was never announced, making this hololens 2.
    If every iteration of a device was officially announced, first Gen products would be prototypes. You're not an idiot.
  • Kipman literally never said that. You're going on a reported rumor that was conceptual: Microsoft was skipping an internal, iterative update to go for something bigger.
  • I know you said 850 processor, but that better be for the low grade version. Put the 8cx in the top line version and I'll buy 3 day one for me and the family.
  • Too early for that is my guess
  • You can't just put the most powerful processor available in a battery-operated head-mounted computer... power requirements and thermals are quite important for comfort. Watch for apps running on a powerful desktop PC while using the headset wirelessly for sensors and display instead when more power is needed.
    There is no reason the two computers cannot complement each-other, they could even build that remoting at the API layer, making WinMR apps run on a desktop PC with a wireless HoloLens run as if they were simply on a more powerful headset without having to worry about the networking layer.
  • This may not be so easy to do. The connection would have to be incredibly low latency and capable of pushing very high throughput or they'd need ways to hide the latency or it could result in really nausea inducing graphical issues. AR and VR have much tighter requirements on framerate and latency than typical applications. What you can do though is use the desktop PC and the HoloLens at the same time, since nothing will block out your view of a monitor. And you can push data to the HoloLens as long as you don't need to do the rendering remotely, or it isn't graphically intensive. But it won't solve use cases that require graphically intensive rendering on the HoloLens itself, without some really clever solutions to the latency issues.
  • The API already supports apps providing depth maps of rendered frames, and vo