Earlier this year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft doesn't think there ever will be a single, centralized metaverse. Instead, he said Microsoft believes there will be many metaverse platforms. And although its Teams for Mesh platform makes for fun demos of what many probably think of when they hear "metaverse," Microsoft also is evolving its more real-world "industrial metaverse" platform.
At its Build developers conference later this month, one of Microsoft's key sessions is all about "Preparing for the metaverse," which, according to the description, will focus on how enterprises can benefit from "metaverse experiences." There also will be a session on how IoT powers everything "from the Edge to the Metaverse."
Microsoft officials have been working for more than a year to position the company's full tech stack so that it looks relevant to those buzzing about the metaverse. Last year at Build, Microsoft officials began talking up the company's enterprise metaverse tech stack. Execs said that everything from Azure IoT, Azure Digital Twins and Azure Maps, through Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure AI, Power Platform and HoloLens were the foundation for the coming "metaverse apps."
Microsoft took the wraps off its Azure-powered Mesh mixed-reality collaboration platform at Build in May 2021. Later, at Ignite in the fall, officials said they planned to bring Mesh to Teams and would make available a preview of Mesh for Teams in 2022 that would feature a set of pre-build immersive spaces for meetings and mixers and later, tools for customers to create their own custom spaces.
During Microsoft's most recent earnings call, Nadella claimed that Microsoft is "leading innovation in the new industrial metaverse." He cited the company's work in IoT, digital twins, mixed reality applications and Connected Spaces (which, right now, means the Dynamics 365 product formerly known as the Connected Store) as the foundational pieces of its industrial metaverse strategy. Connected Spaces sounds like a category where Microsoft will add more SKUs over time and will use its machine learning, computer vision and IoT technologies to enable customers to gain more insights into their physical environments.
A recent posting on LinkedIn by Microsoft GM/Partner for Azure IoT, Tony Shakib, added more color on Microsoft's enterprise metaverse talking points. And IoT and digital twin technology are still at the center of the company's worldview. From Shakib's May 7 post:
"Our Industrial Metaverse is a collection of capabilities in the intelligent cloud and on the intelligent edge working together. At their foundation is Azure IoT, which allows you to connect physical assets and run cloud intelligence - and Azure Digital Twins, which provide the ability to model anything physical or logical, from simple devices or products to complex environments."
While holoportation simulations and customizable avatars interacting in fancy virtual worlds are definitely on Microsoft's metaverse roadmap, it's the nearer-term deliverables in the edge/IoT, machine learning and digital twins spaces that will be where Microsoft and partners will likely make money first and foremost. Here's hoping and expecting we will get more updates on this industrial metaverse vision at Build on May 24.