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Summary

New reports suggest that Microsoft will skip the road-mapped “V2” of its Hololens immersive AR headset – which was perhaps due this year – for a more revolutionary “V3” product in 2019. If true, this hints at the Redmond giant’s confidence that few firms will catch up with or leapfrog it in the interim period, and that it is still too difficult to build revolutionary technology into end-user-ready products.

Hololens V3 won’t miss the immersive AR boat

Although other immersive AR headsets are coming to market from relative newcomers such as Meta, and although we might even see a Magic Leap headset in 2017/18 – if that firm doesn’t implode first – Microsoft still leads the field with Hololens. It has compelling demos and headsets in a lot of developers’ hands, and it’s building out its platform with inside-out tracking, Windows Holographic, and OEM partnerships (in VR at least).

Skipping an incremental V2 product should enable Microsoft to explore technologies such as light-field displays to combat the problems with depth of focus and field of view that plague Hololens today. It also gives the firm time to design new silicon and reduce the size of the self-contained headset. Meanwhile – like with Oculus’s DK2 – keen adopters and developers can use the Hololens V1 to deploy vertical apps and master Windows Holographic, and can maybe even explore the promised low-cost VR headsets promised by Microsoft and partners later this year.

We might also see a V1.5 of the current headset in the interim as battery, silicon, and traditional display technology improve. Such factors could lower costs and shrink the headset but won’t substantively change any capabilities.

These developments reinforce Ovum’s view that while immersive AR has the potential to ultimately surpass VR in both the consumer and business worlds, it will be a long journey and not an overnight success. It’s worth stating again for those disappointed by VR in 2016: Revolutionary hardware isn’t like a new app – it takes time to gain adoption, particular when it costs $600, in the case of VR, or $3,000, in the case of Hololens.

Appendix

Further reading

“Magic Leap’s vision of immersive applications is still out of focus,” ME0002-000727 (November 2016)

“While VR offers opportunities for digital media firms, AR may also be a good long play,” ME0002-000650 (February 2016)

Author

Paul Jackson, Principal Analyst, Digital Media

paul.jackson@ovum.com

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