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A "HoloLens" for everyone; Microsoft is democratizing HoloLens tech

Of course, at the time no one could get one. The hardware was unfinished, and the tools in Windows Holographic, a new component of Windows 10, which would allow developers to build holographic apps had yet to be to be released.

But even then I knew that HoloLens and Windows Holographic would have a profound impact on Microsoft and the future of personal computing. Developer's adoption of the platform and manufacturer partnerships for HoloLens-like wearable computers are core to Microsoft's vision. Microsoft fellow Alex Kipman explains:

…Windows has always been built with an ecosystem of partners. Throughout our history, we have brought new attributes to Windows that empower not only developers but also our device makers to unleash their creativity to the world. Windows Holographic was created from the ground up with that same heritage in mind.

As partners have emulated the Surface with affordable 2-in-1s, Microsoft's goal is to foster an explosion of untethered wearable holographic computers for everyone!

A new perspective

Bringing Holographic computing to the masses isn't as easy as a "show the world today and change the world tomorrow" strategy. The hardware, the platform and the way we think about personal computing requires a systematic, deliberate and strategic shift. This takes time.

When Microsoft introduced HoloLens it seemed like a science fiction fantasy to onlookers. "Could this untethered wearable computer projecting holograms into the user's world be real?" Moreover, could it really be "uncool" Microsoft, that is presenting this artifact from the future? The answer to both questions was: Yes.

"Could this untethered wearable computer be real?"

HoloLens and Windows Holographic not only took the industry by surprise, but the ambition it represents as a bold new personal computing platform have many proclaiming Redmond as innovative in a way that Apple and Google are not. Apple's Tim Cook recently acknowledged the importance of augmented reality (Apple is rumored to be working on their own AR headset) and Google has made investments in the mysterious Magic Leap — are they playing catch-up?

The industry is still wrapping its heads around the implications and potential of Microsoft's holographic platform. Furthermore, developers are challenging their imaginations with its boundary-crossing nature. Potential hardware partners are, no doubt, entertaining strategies that will help bring wearable holographic computers to the masses.

A long road to the masses

Microsoft wants to get holographic computing right. They want Windows Holographic to be the industry's platform for this new way of computing. That's one of the reasons "holographic APIs are enabled inside every Windows 10 build (opens in new tab)." Moreover, Microsoft wants hardware partners to manufacture holographic computers patterned after the $3000 aspirational HoloLens.

Thus, to build an infrastructure of support, Microsoft has engaged in a tempered approach to the market. Redmond has demonstrated the efficacy of the technology first in specific industries and with specific use cases before launching haphazardly to the masses.

The progress in education, science and other sectors reflect Redmond's dedication to the platform. Though a first-party consumer version is still at least three to four years away according to Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella, Windows Holographic is inching into the mainstream via Virtual Reality.

These partnerships may lead to HoloLens-like AR devices.

HP, ASUS, Lenovo, Acer and Dell have recently committed to bringing affordable VR headsets, which use elements of Windows Holographic, to market. Starting at $299 these headsets and partnerships represent both the adoption of Microsoft's holographic platform by manufacturers and a possible progression of these partnerships toward HoloLens-like AR headsets.

At $3000 the price is not right

A $3000 HoloLens, like the $3000 Surface Studio, is not accessible to most people. In fact, Redmond's aspirational first-party devices are not meant to be.

"How are we going to work with these partners to build devices that can reach all price points."

They're intended to inspire manufacturing partners to emulate the synergy of software and hardware exemplified on first-party hardware.

The success of 2-in-1s and the introduction of the Surface Studio-Like PC from Dell so soon after the Studio's debut are good signs manufacturers recognize Redmond's Windows 10 device family vision.

Windows Chief Terry Myerson is excited to see this vision realized at WinHEC in relation to helping manufacturers bring HoloLens-like PCs to the masses:

...with HoloLens we did something new, it's a $3,000 device. It's a device that…has broken new ground. Same when Panos showed Studio, a $3,000 device, and Dial…it will break new ground.When we go to WinHEC, we're...thinking how are we going to democratize this technology, how are we going to work with these partners to build devices that can reach all price points, that can reach everyone on the planet…most of your readers are not necessarily using our Microsoft devices. [They're] using devices that are a product of these partnerships that we have that enable these hardware creators to express their own creative ideas for Windows.For software developers, we don't get up at Build and talk about lenses and inches and things like that. But for a creator in the hardware space, it is about the evolution of lens technology, the evolution of the hinges, and how can the software and hardware work differently depending on the creativity I apply there. And so that's really what WinHEC is all about.

Microsoft's holographic computing vision is on a path to becoming reality.

From virtual dream to reality

Kipman had this to say of Windows Holographic:

"Since the launch of Microsoft HoloLens, we have seen really passionate developers and world-class companies develop groundbreaking computing experiences…

The combination of developer's passion for the software and the coming democratization of the hardware may bring Microsoft's holographic personal computing vision to fruition.

Will partners bring holographic computers to consumers before Microsoft?

It'll be interesting to see if partners will bring wearable holographic PCs to consumers ahead of Microsoft's self-imposed first-party timetable of about 2020.

Alcatel introduced the consumer-focused Windows Mobile Idol 4S though Microsoft's Windows Mobile vision is enterprise-focused after all. Microsoft's partners have their own strategies for the Windows platforms. A consumer-focused HoloLens-like PC just might be at the fore-front of a manufacturers personal computing strategy.

Would you buy an affordable third-party holographic PC if one debuted in the near future?

What Hololens means for Microsoft and the future of personal computing

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!

40 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks! Well HoloLens is THE coolest thing to come out of Redmond and has pretty much been the company's "mascot" for cool and innovation. Of course, all the cool points and accolades have been tempered by a very cautious and methodic strategic approach to the market. And that's a good thing. As a platform company, they're not just bringing a hardware device (like Apple may be doing), Windows Holographic is a platform play and us part of the 400+ million (and 1billion+ goal) of Windows 10. Developers and hardware partners could help Microsoft make Windows Holographic and HoloLens-like 3rd party hardware THE industry standard. Who's on board with that vision?!? :-) Would you buy an affordable "HoloLens" if one hit the market in the near future? LET'S TALK!!!
  • I'm not sure that Windows Holographic is as far off as the article makes it sound - with the Holographic event in December and 3rd party (tethered) Holographic devices due in March(ish) for a reasonable price ($299-$699)... along with the Creator update, Windows Holographic seems to be "here".  Obviously this first round isn't what we're going to bet the future on, but it seems right around the corner!
  • Unless I misunderstood the devices due next year will still be VR and not AR like the HoloLens.
  • Correct. Those devices are VR.:-)
  • Actually they will be MR. Opaque screen like VR, but with spatial mapping that will allow you to see your external world.
  • Yes indeed, if it was affordable.
  • So much mind blowing potential, can MS be ahead of the game for once?
    I can see this being entrenched in our lives the minute its affordable for the masses. Brilliant.
    Holo Phone?
  • Let's hope they will be not late this time. They started well, anyway now they had to bring it to consumer market(at human affordable prices) before apple and google.
    I really hope in holophone: glasses that connect wirelessly to phone that can run full windows holographic shell using phone processing power. It can be the paradigm shift Microsoft is waiting for reenter consumer mobile market.
  • I will totally buy one at $299 if can "continuum" it with my 950XL for basic task like "bed time" movie.
  • Microsoft makes $3,000 devices to inspire OEMs to build $300 devices. It's an interesting strategy but as long as Microsoft makes its money back on licensing, I guess it works.
  • I think the goal is not to earn on lincenses but building an ecosystem like they were not able to do with windows mobile.
  • $3k is not not affordable. But I think for now HoloLens will suffer the same way Windows phone has... No apps/content. Why spend the money if all you can do right now is build a new kitchen and browse the web on your wall?
  • I think the HoloLens might actually be starting to, or will soon, rival the phone with the amount of apps available.
  • Hololens already have UWP apps. Any new device category will face the same situation. It is upto Time and Developers to keep it growing!
  • Pardon my ignorance, but since when is the progress dependable on existence of flappy bird?
  • Unfortunately to most people if they can't use that stupid bird or ghost figure, they don't care about the device.
  • Well, at the lowest use scenario, it is a standalone computer, you can use to watch tv. Sure it's way expensive now but at a consumer price the device holds on it's own, when naturally more applications will come out as it's adopted.
  • The iPhone didn't have apps and content when it was first released either. It's risky, but at a certain point, MS needs to make sexy hardware that will force devs to want to create content for it and the hardware needs to be genre defining.
  • If MS are well in front of the curve as they appear to be with this, maybe its a way to finally attract the devs to build apps !
    MS is bordering on cool lately, devs won't understand that but hopefully it catches on :)
  • HoloLens if for developer. The only reason to buy it, is to create apps and contents, if you want to consume contents it is not for you. Not yet.
  • It depends on what I'm suppose to do with it. Not sure yet.
  • For consumers, gaming is going to be ridiculous in the future (in a good way)... Take a look at this case study of Fragments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ULJV4G5XkA Edit: Thanks for the unreasonable downvote for actually giving a suggestion as to what someone might want to use it for if they didn't already have a use case... did you actually *watch* the video? Seriously, watch it.
  • Incredible video, I mean, I imagined something like that, but seeing it being done is amazing.
  • I gave you +1 because I am all about social justic :P    And that video was pretty awesome
  • I'd get one, but only if it was untethered, and AR. Tethered VR is a joke, it's not good even for gaming. AR is the future of computing, VR has yet to find it's voice in gaming, if it ever finds it.
  • Belfiore, Rubino, these Aitalians are everywhere...
  • I tried a demo of Hololens at one of the MS Events. I found it to be limited in FOV as many of commented.  For $3000 I really had higher expectations. The fit of the device seems Key. Mine kept slipping off my head the whole time. Kind of ruined the whole experience for me.
  • @Jason, you productive these days. Great reads!
    And yes, I would buy one as soon as I can afford it, but a camera drone comes first.
  • I will definitely buy a holographic device if it suits my price range, which should be well beneath $3K. What might hold me back lies in the differences such a device might/will have compared to HoloLens. Like there is no other laptop/convertible like Surface Book or all-in-one like Surface Studio I will definitely want the same features (untethered, field of view, battery life, ...) in a truly Windows Holographic (not VR!) device.
  • sky is the limit
  • I'd love to have this first iteration of HoloLens but I'm no developer nor can I afford it for $3K. I guess in a few years, HoloLens for general consumer would be a lot portable, more comfortable with respect to ui and wearability, packing more power and last longing. That kind of device sporting Windows holographic could revolutionize the industry. I'll just get myself a higher end first party hardware from the software giant than to go for a cost effective 3rd party device, I'm a proud Creator.
  • Apparently for some people here the HoloLens will fail because its big expensive and has a limited field of view at the moment. Let me think hmmm, TV, Gaming, Computers, Mobile phones, hmmm apparently those where all failures because they were big expensive and had limited functionality when they were invented. Not. Soon the HoloLens will be one third the size and wirelessly tethered to that mobile device in your pocket, that will actually doing the computing power. HoloLens is the start of the next big thing and developers are scrambling to make apps, live with it and enjoy the ride. The last time I saw a new bit of tech with this much possibility, it was Pong Tennis and that was the beginning of a trillion dollar industry and my love affair with tech.
  • I'm just trying to figure out how I could use it; I can picture how it could revolutionize a lot of other industries though.
  • I went to one of their public demo sessions and while I was impressed with the concept, it's still very rough for the money. Going in the right direction though!
  • Well, the biggest caveat of the current version of hololens is not price. I have not ever owned a gadget costing more than 500 bucks but I wont hesitate to buy a polished AR headset with pricing of 3000 dollars. I am from a south asian country and have plans for investment in contract house building. I have plans for using headsets to provide preview of exterior and interiors of planned house to customize and customizablity of design. I will have enormous competitive advantage over other contract builders given the technology literacy is low among the contractors. And the use case scenario of headset in my nation is definately more than 100 k as first adaptor.
    But what i need at least are
    1.comfortablity: less than 500 gm in weight, uniform weight distribution (unlike front heavy hololens 1) and stablity in head.
    2. At least single day battery life( with 5 hrs of productive use)
    3. At least 60 degree of fov and that remaining field can incorporate their sparse AR concept. I would choose hologram stablity and better depth to resolution.fhd per eye should work fine.
    4 . Better controller: the gesture controlling mechanism might be good for basic controls but what i care about are precesion input, haptics, low latency and intuitiveness. ( the air tap gesture is not going to be mainstream AR input system like the pinch zoom, scrolling and others)
    5. Better assistant: Microsoft research might have the best voice recognition but its not AI. They need something like google knowledge graph , offline recognition feature for cortana . And here how i envision that.
    A $3000 headset, better optics with 1080p per eye and 90 degree Fov and full peripheral lighting, 10000 mah battety, customizable to different shull shapes and even eye, Ability to create black colour and shadows,opaque holograms, ability for high fidelity VR,etc. 6 hrs of active use. To make this possible i think they should put the processing workload to a pc or xbox scorpio. Vive is using that wireless processing and hololens should also do that. Xbox scorpio would do all the processing and stream that to hololens using wireless ad or ac or lifi or whatever, Microsoft can reduce the pricing of hololens by this type of hardware sharing. As a moonshot they can put kinect 3.0 in that hypothetical xbox and few more in corners of room for 3d capture. And tadaaa!!!! holoportation!!! No one can resist holoportation for even $4000. Sorry for grammer if any
  • Im using it. And having pictures and videos popping up, browsing the inet, work great and precise. And there are no pixels or bad quality such as when using vr. You thinkin too much from an vr point of view. Hololense is freaking unbeliveable.
  • I surely will buy one on day one! Can't wait for that day. I tried HoloLens at an Accenture booth and since then my mind can't stop thinking about the amazing opportunities this technology/devices unlock.
  • Yes i would. Currently working hololens at my university. Its tge most breathtaking experience ever.
  • Hell, yeah!
  • I would if the price was right. If it was something I could actually afford.