One thing I was looking forward to at Build 2018 is that I had been hearing whispers that Microsoft may start talking more openly about their next generation HoloLens at the conference. If you have been watching the Sams Report or FRD, you will know that one of my predictions is that we would learn more about the new hardware and if you were paying close attention, that’s exactly what the company did at the event.
If you are thinking ‘I don’t remember seeing any new demos or the new device’ you would be right, but what they did show off is the new sensor array that will be included in the headset. The thing is, they didn’t call it HoloLens, they called it Kinect.
Now, you might be thinking that ‘Brad, this is logical but speculation at best’ but that’s not an accurate statement. In conjunction with the blog post announcing the new Kinect sensor, Alex Kipman penned a post on his LinkedIn page talking about the hardware and it explicitly states “This is the sensor that Satya described onstage at the Build conference and is also the sensor that will give the next version of HoloLens new capabilities”.
There is no hiding this fact anymore, this is one component of the sensor array that will help make the next-gen device better than the hardware that you can buy today.
‘Ok that’s great Brad, but that’s one piece of the puzzle of the next generation hardware’ but if you dig in a bit more, the company has made other posts explicitly calling out the next-gen device. In July of 2017, the company talked about the second generation holographic processing unit that is again “is designed to work in the next version of HoloLens”.
What we know so far is the new HPU “will incorporate an AI coprocessor to natively and flexibly implement DNNs” and that the fourth generation Kinect sensor will provide significantly improved performance (especially in bright daylight). But there are a few more leaps that will be made with this hardware.
With all new hardware, we can expect it to be thinner, lighter, faster and have better battery life. This is the standard cadence for hardware improvements in any industry and knowing that the HoloLens has already gone through one revision, (second gen device was scrapped, read my scoop here) this will be the ‘third’ iteration of the hardware, the performance gains will be significant.
The biggest change will be the light engine that Microsoft is using and the specs of this hardware are harder to come-by but I do know that the company is bringing all this componentry in-house. The company is going all-in on development is not depending on third-parties to assist with design and development; think a wider field of view as that’s the primary limiting factor of the current gen device.
And finally there is the price, the current device costs a tough-to-swallow $3000 for the dev edition. I would hope that the next-gen device comes in at a lower price point to reach a wider audience but there are a couple things to consider.
One of the primary reasons Microsoft canceled v2 is that there isn’t any competition at this time. Magic Leap keeps making promises about shipping hardware but has yet to do so and Apple/Google, while working on this type of hardware, are not shipping anything.
I do believe that Microsoft made the right decision to not ship V2 and jump to ‘V3’ as the rough timeline is that we should see the hardware reach wide-availability is sometime next year. Even if Apple and Google announce hardware later this year, this should put the major players all on a similar timeline for hardware release and by not having to deal with the overhead-baggage of V2, V3 should be a better product as more resources are dedicated to building that new device.
But back to the price, personally, an ideal price point would be about $800 but I’m not holding my breath at this price point. While that may seem expensive, I’d rather have Microsoft ship a premium product than undercut it to hit a lower price point; it’s also the same price as a higher-end smartphone.
While I wish Microsoft would have shown us more at Build for the next-gen device to help build excitement for the brand and the company, they are clearly taking their time with the announcement to show us something closer to completion rather than a prototype.
<blockquote><a href="#277470"><em>In reply to SocialDanny123:</em></a></blockquote><p>"Also Microsoft has a much much better chance in getting this mainstream in the market than Google or Apple since hundreds of millions of companies are embedded into Microsoft 365 ecosystem."</p><p><br></p><p>When MS came out with Windows Phone, people said the same thing yet it still got destroyed in the mobile space. I am not saying MS is destined to fail but at the same token having a large MS 365 user base is no guarantee either, as their failure in mobile has shown.</p>
<p>$800? Not gonna happen. $800 is the price at which Apple is shipping 10s of millions of devices that have a lower technology quotient than HoloLens quarterly, that's not volumes Microsoft is going to get here, even in the wildest success, not for another 4-5 years in the future.</p><p>Best case scenario is around $1,999. I think I bought a normal gateway computer at that price in 1999, if you think of this as a new computing category, it's around that $2000 price you start getting some mainline market traction if the consumer value is there in the product. Only later does it start coming down into more affordable levels. But I think even that price is unlikely because Microsoft is not really targeting consumers here.</p><p>A fully realized consumer version of HoloLens would be something that could replace your computer, your TV, and your smartphone (for some types of consumers), and do 3D stuff none of them could ever do, so it certainly packs a lot of potential value (although hard to imagine Microsoft as the company that does that, their consumer ecosystem is almost finished, also all those capabilities would not be packed into it in meaningful way by 2019 whichever company actual ships product). </p><p>Besides, Microsoft seems to be clearly targeting this at enterprises. Businesses don't really care what the price of an item is, the real question is whether it is actually a real thing, a tool they can just pick up and actually use in their workflows, rather than a tech experiment that distracts from completing their tasks, and what is the cost/benefit of it in hard numbers to them. If the HoloLens out there now were that real thing, that turbocharges their say productivity of field workers, they would still buy in in droves for $3000 or $5000. </p>