HoloLens 3 may not be dead after all, suggests device's creator

Hololens 2015
Hololens 2015 (Image credit: AP (2015))

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's Alex Kipman may have just refuted the claim that the HoloLens 3 is canceled.
  • Earlier this week, a report claimed that the HoloLens division was in complete disarray and that HoloLens 3 was canceled in mid 2021.
  • In response to the report, Kipman said "don't believe what you read on the internet," claiming HoloLens is doing great.

Update 11 PM ET 2/4/2022: Business Insider has since published a new report that refutes Kipman's claim in his tweet, as well as shedding much more light on Microsoft's mixed reality plans.

Microsoft's Alex Kipman appears to disagree with the reports claiming that the HoloLens 3 was canceled. Kipman, a technical fellow at Microsoft and overseer of the company's Mixed Reality division, took to Twitter to refute the claims.

The entire HoloLens division came under fire following an Insider report that included information from "more than 20 current and former employees" at Microsoft. Our Executive Editor Daniel Rubino said that he's "never heard of such a division in this much chaos in all [his] years of covering Microsoft."

The report outlined a division in disarray, including Microsoft not having a clear vision for its mixed reality devices. The piece claimed that the HoloLens 3 was canceled in mid-2021, that Microsoft's partnership with Samsung caused rifts, and that at least 25 Microsoft employees working on mixed reality have left for Meta. It also stated that Microsoft's $22 billion contract with the U.S. military is behind schedule due to headset development issues.

In stark contrast to these points, Kipman claims HoloLens is doing great.

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Kipman also notes that in earlier times there were reports of the HoloLens 2 being canceled. That device ultimately shipped, disproving such claims.

Nonetheless, Business Insider published a new report that directly refutes Kipman's claims with one source calling it "complete bullsh-t."

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

  • I mean, why would they cancel it in the first place ?
    It's a unique and niche device with no "real" competitor in the market, as far as I know. And obviously, Microsoft is not short on cash or something 😅 Same thinking goes for the Duo, I really think Microsoft has nothing to lose when it comes to devices like these.
  • "It's a unique and niche device with no "real" competitor in the market, as far as I know." Key word being "Yet". If credible rumor sources are correct, that will change in 1 to 1.5 years.
  • So if there are competitors coming up, doesn't it kind of vindicate the category. Wouldn't be the first time MS has thrown away a good lead in the market though.
  • It's way too early to tell. It's a category that still has to prove its place in consumers' lives like the PC or smartphone has. I know it's cliche but currently there are no real losers or winners in this space. A lot of it is still experimental.
  • I'm not overly surprised by this: Business Insider puts out a lot of junk. I can't speak to the specific author of that article, and maybe it will ultimately even turn out to be correct (like Tom Brady's retirement reports), but I recommend skepticism of anything in Business Insider. It's no WSJ or Forbes, and seems to let the opinions of the editors determine what is reported, rather than the facts. This means all they need is to find a bunch of disgruntled people at or previously at MS willing to blast Hololens. While a large number of people willing to speak badly of it does indeed point to disarray, did Business Insider check with other parties at MS to confirm the reports before posting or otherwise try to get an alternative point of view, a basic rule of journalism? That said, unless MS is fully prepared to announce Hololens is over, what else could Kipman say? So all his denial mean for sure (again, like Brady's initial retirement denials) is that MS is not ready to officially state this.
  • In defense of BI, they spoke to "more than 20 current and former employees". That's a lot for one story. I find it difficult to believe that all 20 would be spinning this negatively, or BI somehow hyped it up.
    "This means all they need is to find a bunch of disgruntled people at or previously at MS willing to blast Hololens."
    More than 20 employees? You don't just go "find" 20 people who all say negative things. That's now how reporting works at all.
    "did Business Insider check with other parties at MS to confirm the reports "
    From the article:
    "Microsoft declined to comment on a partnership with Samsung, team dynamics, and said Capossela has no recollection of making the comments about the HoloLens at the meeting. Samsung did not respond to a request for comment about the partnership"
    Also, while what Kipman is saying may be true, it must also be read as fire control. If you haven't read the full BI story, it's quite extensive with a lot of detail.
    "unless MS is fully prepared to announce Hololens is over,"
    That was not the implication of the story, which I'm gathering you haven't actually read. It's that the division has no direction, is behind schedule on the military contract, there is mismanagement going on, and future timelines are not known. No one is claiming or implying that Microsoft is giving up on anything. Again, from the article:
    "Some sources said Microsoft killed the version of the HoloLens 3 at some point in the middle of last year, around the same time Microsoft is said to have started its partnership with Samsung. It's not clear what that means for the current HoloLens roadmap or timeline for future versions of the product."
    Going on:
    "It's not unusual for product designs to get changed, or even thrown out, throughout Microsoft's development process — it's the rate at which the company is changing its strategy that frustrated insiders say is unique. "What we were told to do changed on a monthly basis," one former employee said."
  • Good points, as always, Dan. You are also correct that I had not read the initial article, just going on the reports here on WC. I've been burned by BI reporting enough that I have a soft boycott on reading their stuff. I would accept the criticism that maybe I should read the source material before commenting. :-) In my defense, Window Central reporting (Robert's article), said, "According to a report by Business Insider, HoloLens 3 has been scrapped by Microsoft..." (https://www.windowscentral.com/hololens-3-isnt-happening-and-metaverse-t...) Also, I did acknowledge that BI may be correct and that many people speaking ill of the program does seem to support that it's in disarray.
  • NP. IMHO, this is a PR disaster for MS. At the very least, it speaks to a lot of turmoil in a division that will be very critical for Microsoft in the coming years. While the Windows division had its own issues in the past, it was a bit more piecemeal how the info came out, whereas this was just ... Nadella and Kipman I'm sure are having some talks.
  • I did read the report with the usual skepticism I bring to anything in Business Insider. Writing an article about a lack of focus or staff turnover in some part of Microsoft does not take a lot of reporting skill. With 180,000 employees there is always some part of the company having those problems. IF BI spoke to 20 people that would be quite remarkable for them. I also note that the report HoloLens 3 was killed "according to SOME sources" at "SOME" point last year. That is more like the typical Business Insider reporting. Now, has the renewed focus on PCs caused senior management to put a pause for reassessment on everything physical not called Surface or Xbox? I suspect it has. Does that make the employees in those areas angry and nervous? Sure it does. Do they start shopping themselves around? Of course they do. BI might be right about this (a broken clock is right twice a day after all), but until this comes from a more credible source, I won't be following this bit of drama.
  • Is it possible that there would be significant conflict inside the hololens team and some would prefer to leave the boat or be loud in order to provoque some sort of reaction? If we get more insights of what's happening it's all for the better. It's been quite a trendy topic, I expect a good rant on the podcast today! 😉 Can't wait to hear what you have to say and hear Zac's opinion too.
  • Sounds similar to Apple's Project Titan efforts
  • Just another blip in the 24/7 news cycle. The journalist job is to get those clicks first but product development takes a long time. To me it seems that the real reality is that a bunch of people left because Microsoft signed a billion dollar deal with the military and they are predisposed against the military but remember the internet came out of work with the Military.. Darpa. And right now Darpa is funding and has been funding robotics projects. Personally I think VR is a waste of time. And maybe that's another contention point. Some people believe in AR and some in VR and some think they should be mixed and delivered as XR. So i totally see those battles happening internally. But this stuff happens with innovation right... new paradigms ebb and flow until they become. I think the writer of the article should have taken that tone instead. Its only a PR disaster for a day. Tomorrow on to the next click bait.
  • Daniel Rubino, do you have independent corroboration of what BI is saying? Your own sources that are saying things that make sense and jive with the article? I assumed so when I read your report yesterday pointing to the BI story, and in fact I attached far more credibility to yourself because I see you as a person with inside knowledge of Microsoft, than a BI article. I generally agree with the poster above regarding BI's reputation (although his reference to Forbes, which is crap also made me laugh). I also do not know anything about the particular journalist, but for BI or any of the many motivated internet publishing houses to say they talked to 20 people means nothing. If the journalist has an agenda, the journalist has an agenda. They will approach the story haven already concluded what they want to say before talking to anybody, and they are just building up evidence for that position when they do interviews and research. So, how many people they talked to does not matter at all, given that either 5 or 20 people are a tiny percentage of current and former employees and Microsoft, and we do not know many particulars about them or what they said to BI, only what BI tells us. The problem is ideologically motivated advocacy journalism, and from what I have come across of them on the internet, BI does it a lot (I am not saying that's what happened here. But nothing in the reporting makes it unlikely).
  • "So, how many people they talked to does not matter at all"
    I severely disagree with this. We talked about this on the podcast today. When we published exclusive stories on insider plans, we have at least 2 sources to corroborate. Never have we ever had 20. That's a massive amount. Also, the follow-up BI report call's Kipman's claim "complete bullshit." before going to give a history of HoloLens with codenames and milestones. There is even more info on the Samsung deal. I don't this is advocacy journalism. As to us corroborating this story, no. We have had very few inside reports on HoloLens and it's something we don't often speculate on here. Nonetheless, I bet we see other outlets following up on these stories in the coming weeks.
  • "may not be dead ... suggests" Could you be any more sure of this?
  • I should have known this division was struggling. The last few MSBUILD conferences showcased really niche demonstrations of Hololens which truly lacked a focus or direction. Construction site permissions? It was a solution lacking a problem. And all of the demonstrations were 100% prototypes. Honestly, if they really want to open this up they need to slash the cost of the SDK and unit and let the community drive the project.
  • This was my thinking as well. They have developers developing stuff for?? Who?? Who is testing these developments and providing real life feedback? It sounds like they're testing them with carefully curated partners. That won't get real world feedback. I feel Microsoft needs to get some basic functionality like games on it, sell a consumer version for market testing, that will pull in more developers who see a customer for their software product. Let the market demand new ideas that start-ups and partners can fulfill, by this path dominate the market. The competition likely has several Hololens developer kits. They are looking for ways to reverse engineer then leverage the tech. Microsoft needs mindshare and enough head start to overcome the reservations people have for past Microsoft product failures. Right now Facebook/Meta is dominating the newsfeeds and therefore gaining mindshare. Microsoft needs to learn this lesson. As well as let the market decide what it should be, not hold it so tight for what they want it to be.
  • This is not a surprise. You mean a news reporter made stuff up shocking.
  • I find it a bit scary you just believe a tweet over a very detailed article that relied on information from over 20 current and former Microsoft employees. That's a massive amount of sources and you don't get 20 people making complaints if there's no "there" there. The article never claimed all of WMR is being canceled, or that the HoloLens program is being scrapped, just that there are whiplash changes in strategy that suggest incoherence rather than vision. Kipman is in spin control here and didn't address all the other reported issues (delays with the military contract, infighting with the teams, massive attrition of employees, a confusing strategy with Samsung). There is no world in which this report is 100% false. While details may vary, if you're not worried/concerned about Windows mixed reality, then you're simply in denial.
  • If you take this further, XBOX division has continuously repeated they VR/AR is not in the current roadmap. To me that translated to, "I wouldn't touch it with a 10 ft stick".
  • Yup, Spencer is definitely no fan of it, or, at least, in its current iteration. He seems very pragmatic: Focus on core features that gamers care about, ignore gimmicks.
  • Does anyone expect the Hololens 3 to be the $499 consumer device? I dont. I also dont think the Army is going to cancel IVAS (hololens or infrantry visual augmentation system). Behind schedule? What military contract is not behind schedule? The KC46 tanker is 15 years behind schedule. My thought is HoloLens 3 is an enterprise level device. One of those, that is really cool no wonder it costs $3K per device. Do I think the division is in turmoil? Sure. Those that left for Meta probably are not that keen on MSFT attitudes about social media and the like. Could MSFT let Smasung build the consumer version of HoloLens? Could MSFT build the enterprise version? Sure. You have commercial drones being used by nonstate actors to change the dynamics on the battlefield while major powers are using enterprise level tech to dominate the battlefield. Likewise, you can see fire departments willing to pay $4K for a fire proof hololens for firefighters to rescue people. But you are not likely to sell $4K hololens to play mindcraft/halo.
  • They are waiting for apple to launch their ar headset and then they will work on making it for the masses
  • That BI piece is behind a pay wall, so I'm taking WC and Verge's word for it. It may be wrong of me, but I'm taking Dan Rubino's recent strong editorial and defense of BI as a reading-between-the-lines that his sources are reflecting similar sentiments.
    As a reader, I think I'm justified in being suspicious of the BI piece. It's credible to me that Microsoft is having trouble retaining employees and that their leadership is pursuing competing priorities in a haphazard fashion. What isn't particularly credible to me is that Microsoft is prepared to abandon their strategy of brining this to Enterprise first and not really planning for Consumer. The fact that Hololens 3 may be delayed is not a surprise. The 2nd version was delayed and was a significant change from what we had expected.
    Let's face it, the battle for the meta verse will be fought among employees as much as it will among companies. We're all along for the ride.
  • "What isn't particularly credible to me is that Microsoft is prepared to abandon their strategy of brining this to Enterprise first and not really planning for Consumer."
    I don't believe that's actually be alleged. What has been alleged is that there is confusion, disarray, shifting strategies, and no real sense of a unified purpose/goal with mixed reality. Teams are being pulled in different directions, there's some dissent on strategy, and there's just chaos. They are still very likely to ship another HoloLens, IMO. You can read it (and Kipman's response) like this: Microsoft canceled the current iteration of HoloLens 3 for ... reasons Microsoft will still ship another HoloLens "3" in the future Both of those can be true.
  • It could also be the dissatisfied employees that left to work for Facebook did not like the fact that HoloLens was being adapted to military purposes and tried to get that effort ended. But the leadership told them no and now they just want to throw dirt at their former employer.
  • exactly.. everything else is being lumped onto the story to create a splash.. I never liked journalism thank goodness i actually create things for a living.
  • Go read the follow up article that goes into even more detail. Both of you have either 1. not read the actual article or 2. are beyond biased towards Microsoft.