Microsoft chose MWC 2019 as the arena to take the wraps off HoloLens 2 augmented reality headset. And it has come along in leaps and bounds since the first-generation Development Edition device started shipping back in March 2016. But despite massive technical progress in areas such as field of view – Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow for AI and Mixed Reality in the Cloud and AI Group at Microsoft, described the improvement since the initial HoloLens as "the equivalent of moving from a 720p television to a 2K television for each of your eyes" – and interest from enterprise users ranging from construction to the US military (that last one not being popular among some at Microsoft), this doesn't seem to be enough for some, who seem to think that only consumer products can be exciting.
This is so wrong.
And it comes from thinking that for something to be big, it has to be 'Apple big."
Note: HoloLens 2 is a third-generation device because Microsoft seemingly skipped over the second-generation release.
The world around us is built by and around things that aren't aimed at the consumer space, from tractors to cranes to medical devices to servers to power plants to the pipes and wires that carry services around the place. There's plenty of tech out there that survives and thrives without all the consumer space hype that products like the iPhone generate. While I'm sure that there are a lot of people who'd be willing to put down the $3,500 for a HoloLens 2, it's perfectly understandable why Microsoft has chosen not to make this a consumer product.
First, as good as it seems, it's probably not good enough for mass-market consumer usage. It's not immersive enough. It's not comfortable enough. It's too expensive.
Another problem is that there's no consumer metaverse for HoloLens. For it to be a success with consumers, it would need an app store brimming with apps. That doesn't exist, and the number of developers willing to put the time and effort and resources into developing apps for a $3,500 bit of kit is not going to be that great because they know the market just won't be there.
Finally, Microsoft is learning lessons from Google's Glass debacle. Releasing HoloLens 2 into the consumer space would likely result in more of the same.
- HoloLens 2 hands-on: This feels like practical magic (CNET)
- Microsoft's HoloLens 2: Why it's really all about the cloud
It's important not to let our idea of tech, and what is big and what isn't, be dominated by companies like Apple. While there's no doubt that the iPhone has transformed the tech landscape, and changed the way many of us live and work (whether we use an iPhone or not), there's much more to the tech space than a new smartphone every year.
I'm glad that Microsoft still embraces the idea that our world is built with things that aren't consumer-arena toys, and is still willing to put the time and effort into making devices that will make the future a better place.