Microsoft announced HoloLens and its companion Windows Holographic platform at a Windows event in 2015. The mixed reality headset became available to developers in select markets last year, and since then has only seen growth.
The HoloLens makes true what most only imagined in science fiction before; mixed-reality has a lot of protentional, and some of it is being realized today by museums, by technicians, by those who save lives, and even by the military.
Microsoft has pushed HoloLens into the enterprise market with relative success but has largely avoided consumers. The headset costs $3,000, making it unaffordable for the average consumer – HoloLens v2 was the fix for this.
That’s how a product roadmap usually goes: the first generation of a device is followed by a smaller, refined, and cheaper generation, followed by a version that adds new features and improves the device significantly.
It’s how Apple’s roadmaps for iPhone, iPad, etc. work, and it’s also how Intel’s roadmap for new processors work; the industry largely approves of this strategy.
HoloLens v2, therefore, was meant to be a cheaper and refined version of the original HoloLens, with the possibility of making it more accessible to smaller businesses or even the average consumer.
Unfortunately, Microsoft is dropping that plan. As Thurott.com reports, Microsoft has canceled HoloLens v2 and is moving straight to the development of HoloLens v3.
The Failed Competition
As per the report from Thurott.com, Microsoft has made this decision due to the lack of competition in the AR space. The Redmond giant is simply not compelled or threatened by anyone; there is nobody building anything like HoloLens for commercial use.
Simply put: there is nobody to compete with; therefore, Microsoft can take its sweet time to develop a successor with significant improvements rather than minor refinements.
This strategy would allow Microsoft to push out the next version of HoloLens by 2019. Since the first HoloLens hit the shelves in 2016, that’s a three-year wait.
In the long term, this is a great move. If Microsoft were to continue work on HoloLens v2, the v3 would happen way further than 2019. Microsoft, for the moment, is confident enough to think in the long term, due to the lack of competition.
The Short Term
In the short term, Microsoft is working with its OEMs to flood the market with cheaper VR headsets.
Acer, Lenovo, HP, etc. are all eager to jump into the VR space; while Gabe Newell says the exciting progress in VR space will happen at the high-end, these cheaper headsets are necessary to introduce more people into VR.
That might backfire at some point – as we discussed – but perhaps it’s a risk worth taking – or at least, Microsoft thinks so.