Microsoft’s Next Gen HoloLens Will Be an Always Connected PC

Posted on December 10, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in Hardware, Microsoft with 27 Comments

Microsoft’s next HoloLens will reportedly be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The device, which has so far been quite under the radar, is expected to launch sometime in the second quarter of 2019.

According to Neowin, the company’s next HoloLens will be powered by the Snapdragon 850 Mobile Compute Platform, the same chipset that powers devices like the Samsung Galaxy Book 2. Using the Snapdragon 850 will mean the next HoloLens will be an Always Connected PC, allowing for instant-on functionality, as well as LTE connectivity thanks to the Snapdragon X20 4G LTE.

The device interestingly won’t feature Qualcomm’s latest Always Connected PC chipset, the Snapdragon 8cx, however. It’s not clear why exactly Microsoft is deciding to go with the Snapdragon 850 instead of the latest and greatest 8cx platform, though it’s possible the new chipset won’t be ready in time for Microsoft’s HoloLens release timeline.

Much like the current HoloLens, the company’s next HoloLens will be aimed at enterprise customers, so if you are hyped by it being an Always Connected PC, you may be a little disappointed. We are expecting a more comfortable, polish hardware this time around, though, so there could be something for everyone.

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Comments (27)

27 responses to “Microsoft’s Next Gen HoloLens Will Be an Always Connected PC”

  1. jimchamplin

    Snapdragon X20 4G LTE”

    That name totally doesn’t suck. Oh wait.

    It does.

  2. Chris_Kez

    I understand if anyone has a sense of disappointment that the future is not arriving as quickly as one would like, but I'm sure if Microsoft could simply drop-in the latest and greatest chip they would do that. The Hololens team is facing a different set of challenges, constraints and financial considerations than they are on the Surface Pro/Book/Studio side. Hololens is a one of a kind product that likely requires a significant amount of engineering to balance performance, battery life and thermals; on top of that they need to integrate the SoC with their custom holographic processing unit; and this all needs to be done in a device that is comfortable to wear on your head. This initial jump from Intel to ARM, presumably alongside a notable redesign of the physical hardware, is probably a much bigger challenge than whatever the next iteration will be.

    • dontbe evil

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      who is disappointed can just buy the same device from samsung, apple, google ecc... oh wait they have nothing !!!???

    • SupaPete

      In reply to Chris_Kez: yeah, i can totally see that. But as both dev and potential customer, while i have appreciation for the technical achievement, important to me is what the benefit is to devs and customers of them using ARM over Intel in this case. So i look forward to them hopefully having some very appealing advantages to present for this.
      (note: enhanced battery life is only an appealing argument to me if one can use the thing well outdoors)

      • Chris_Kez

        In reply to SupaPete:

        But the power efficiency needn't be just about longer battery life; ARM means you can have the same battery life with a much smaller battery... which translates to a lighter device that is more comfortable. As for using it outdoors-- or really anywhere outside your main network that you want a secure persistent connection-- this is enabled by being always connected. These things all fit together.

  3. paradyne

    The 8cx is for laptops, with a 7w TDP. It's just too much for a lightweight device you want to wear for hours at a time as you'd need a much bigger battery and heavier cooling solution.

    • SupaPete

      In reply to paradyne: So what is the gain to users/customers then to go for ARM at all over Intel?
      Sorry, but i see this big push by Apple and MS wanting to go to ARM asap.
      On Apple side for example it goes so far that they put in one of the weakest Intel chips into their new Macbook Air (which then of course barely performs any better than the one in the 3 years older Macbook Air) so they can then in comparison tout how great the performance of their custom ARM chip in their iPad Pro is in comparison to regular laptops.
      Note: i am a multiplatform dev and so i do know from years of performance testing and optimisation that yes, indeed Apple's ARM chips blow all the other ARM chips out of the park in terms of performance.

      But i see little to no value to consumers right now to switch to ARM for anything else than phones and tablets.

      Yes, Intel has not achieved to get to the next processing node yet and had to delay that several times over. But the reality is still that desktop higher end cpus and desktop gpus/ full graphics cards are still years ahead of mobile chips in capabilities.

      As you say, the highest end ARM chips a bunch more power and would then if pushed really high maybe even require active cooling, too in form factors with not that much room for passive heat dissipation.

      So that leaves me to wonder what is the benefit right now or even for . the next 1-3 years to customers to buy arm devices instead of Intel for a laptop or desktop or a device like the hololens.

      If it isn't performance on higher end Intel CPU+Nvidia GPU level or even close to it, then what is left there as arguments? Way longer battery life is only of importance in this case if it is a device one can use outside, so we'll see if one can do that with the next Hololens.

      Note: i would feel much better about all this, both as developer and customer if they would allow more options and freedom, if it had both an Intel chip and and ARM chip at the same time or they would sell variants with both and one could also release made for Intel and ARM apps freely on it and not just through a walled garden app store model.

      but with how it is done, yeah, it just feels too much like just yet another attempt to force push people further into a single heavily walled garden app store, and sorry, but the last few years of Apple, Google and MS app stores have proven that that then is not heading towards a nice place for developers and customers.
      See so badle handled app stores that the only remaining halfway viable business model for most devs there (and even that only if one has an app/game downloaded in the millions regularly) is free to play with heavy ads or heavy in app purchases pushing or subscriptions.
      Also see things like even biggest wigs like Epic having to in between drop their older titles from the app stores because with a free to play model enforced there it isn't financially sense making to support them onwards as soon as not enough downloads to have enough free to play whales each month anymore.

      So yeah, it isn't just about using this chip over that chip now or asap or ahead of it making sense, there is a lot more surrounding these things like the plan to enforce changing the distribution model and freedom for all users and developers and so yes, they better have some solid arguments for why people should buy into that while more and more devs already see the downsides of that a few years ago hyped up "new" model.

  4. wright_is

    Why the Snapdragon 850 and not the 8cx? Probably because it has already been in development for at least a year and to throw away the current motherboard and the work invested and to start from scratch would mean that the 8cx would also be replaced by a new chip, before they could release the re-redesigned Hololens, so they would have to start all over again...

  5. SupaPete

    Sorry, but this is so typical MS of the past few years again. They skip an entire product upgrade cycle, trying to argue for it with blabla we decided to not release the v2 and release the much better v3 as second one then. Then fast forward to when the third version release cycle would be up and one already hears it will likely ship with an older chip version than what is the new hot thing because MS again doesn't time it so that they could put in the latest greatest into it.

    Besides that i also wonder if MS does not look around and check what is done by the competition at all. I mean look at Apple, it is rumored for years that they may try to roll out ARM macs. But what does even Apple who more than often enough cut off backwards compatibility do?

    They don't just release macs with only arm chip replacing all their intel lineup. Instead they add arm chips to their intel lineup laptops to do the few things step by step that make sense to do with that arm chip. And still remain the app compatibility etc of the Intel chip.

    (On the side they also do things like stepwise add support for bringing in iOS apps, too).

    What does MS do in comparison?

    They skip a product cycle so devs/users have to buy the meanwhile quite outdated in specs older version still for the high price like as if new for a full product upgrade cycle longer and then instead of supporting the existing chipset onwards by adding an arm chip next to the Intel chip they replace it?

    So what's the thought process there if they really do that? All devs will just re compile all their apps for the different chipset with different capabilities and be happy that they likely get lower hardware resources and lower graphics capabilities?

    There is definitively some more info needed whether that is really what will happen or how running on this chip will affect current and future applications.

    • dontbe evil

      In reply to SupaPete:

      you can just buy the same device from samsung, apple, google ecc... oh wait they have nothing !!!???

    • MutualCore

      In reply to SupaPete:

      Microsoft will never have the most bleeding edge SoC/CPU in their hardware, that's established by now. They would rather lock the chip down a year in advance, work out the bugs so that when it ships they don't ever again have the Surface Pro 4/Surface Book fiasco in late 2015/early 2016. It got so bad that Consumer Reports had to tell people to NOT buy any Surfaces until recently.

      Maybe you should pay more attention to the wider world.

      • SupaPete

        In reply to MutualCore:

        I (like many earlier gen surface device owners) was among those who experienced those hardware/software reliability /functionality issues first hand. In my case i had bought the surface pro 3 in max specked out i7 version and that had the problem that the fans would very often kick on in way loud form when the device was pretty much idle / doing nothing heavy at all.

        besides that i also constantly had the issue of unreliable poor wifi connection with it where the wifi would constantly drop out, disconnect or be inexplicably slow while it was totally fine on every single other one of my wifi devices (and i also tried disabling several of the others when using the sp3 but that did not help), so that was one of the common issues for many of the surface devices back then.

        It got so bad that i felt like as nice as the form factor was, that was too much to accept for a device i had paid a proper sum for in max specked out version, so i sold it again then in within less than half a year. just not acceptable to me to have the wifi/internet drop out so often while using it.

        (I didn't experience the fail to sleep/get hot in bag or deplete battery while supposed to be sleeping in bag issue many others had back then, as, well, i hardly ever carried the device outside the house)

        I also heard about various other hardware and software reliability issues several of the other older surface device models had and hence then also Consumer reports and others pulling back their recommendations and then MS pushing hard to improve the reliability and general device features and usability and hence then doing way better again and meanwhile again earning consumer reports and others' recommendations for never surface devices.

        So yes, i know about that history and hence i also know why MS got a bit shy to put the latest greatest hardware internals into their devices for a while.

        That that all happened does not give them a free pass from ever having to put in the latest greatest hardware internals ever again into their hardware though.

        It means that they should put more resources into testing their stuff properly in actual usage (not just in theoretical unit tests or insider programs where they then ignore most of the bug reports) and they should ship it a month or two later once such big usability issues are addressed. It would still be the latest and greatest hardware then.

        (Same issue with Windows 10, they hear about all those huge usability issues from insiders etc and then ship the builds anyway and then have to constantly pull them back etc instead of doing the reasonable thing and just delaying the initial release to the broader public until the thing is tested properly and the biggest usability issues addressed and then it tested again another week or two in actual usage before rolling out the update).

        Not shipping with the latest cutting edge internals would be easier to swallow for hardware devices if they would refresh them every year, because then one would "only" be one cycle behind.

        But for some devices they only refresh them every 2-3 years, so then for those it is especially hard to swallow.

        Then also it is an issue regarding the pricing, if the surface devices were among the lower pricing range in each category, again, more people would be ok with accepting one older than current chipset, I/O etc generation. But when you're playing at the higher end of the pricing range in each device form factor segment, then yeah, lots of potential buyers usually also expect the latest greatest hardware internals there and that is very reasonable.

        (As even Apple had to learn recently, as hard as they try to push these devices as sorta desirable fashion or luxury items where the appeal is enough to sell them and people then wouldn't even care that much anymore whether it even has great specs for that price, yeah, no, luckily that does actually not fly that great for phones, tablets and computers if one just halfway wants to approach the mass market, a lot of people who would be willing to pay more are willing to pay more for the best total package, not for let's say a tablet with still limited phone OS which for some reason costs high end laptop prices now when putting all the needed accessories together or more and more for a laptop now which has the weakest mobile grade cpu or way behind the times gpu for example).

        I am by far not the only one with that stance, just check every single review of the surface studio 1 or 2 for example and you will see hundreds of comments of people who love the device form factor but find it unacceptable to pay such prices for 1-2 gens behind the state of the art hardware internals and I/O which are on top not even desktop grade graphics card etc but rather mobile versions.

        I would have already bought a surface studio if it had options for having the latest desktop high end desktop graphics cards and could also be used as external display and also had thunderbolt 3 ports etc and what else i expect regarding high end desktop internals from a high end desktop work station i am willing to pay the highest price ranges for.

        If MS wants to play at those highest price ranges, they simply also have to offer highest end spec options (at still reasonable price for the package) as option.

        I can tell you because i work together with many large design and 3d studios: If MS offered the surface studio with latest I/O ports and highest end desktop graphics card options and also usable as external display, too (at halfway reasonable pricing for each spec option, unlike Apple for the iMac Pro), they would sell hundreds of thousands if not millions more of those devices. I know at least 4 large game studios where executives told me they'd buy hundreds in one go at each of their studio subsidiaries if they could have them with highest end graphics cards for example, as they love the device form factor but it just is not acceptable with those internal specs for high end intensive production, especially not when the thing is not usable as external display and hence would become a dust collector for them in 2-4 years.

        In case of the hololens i find it even way more problematic that it doesn't ship with latest greatest chip, because the current range of Qualcomm chips was already largely shunned for not being that great for desktop /convertible device with desktop OS /intensive app performance (see pretty much every article on devices with those chips by Paul and many others), and it was widely talked about how the next chip version will hopefully get closer to finally delivering desktop/laptop intel core chip like performance.

        so to then not have that in there, yes, a bummer.

        To not have it in there for a device which only seems to get upgraded every 2-3 years, extra bummer.

        To not have it in a device which previously used an Intel chip and hence if the arm chip does not perform surprisingly awesome it could even feel like a downgrade?

        Yeah, that's quite problematic in my eyes.

        There is a big difference between having a phone ARM chip in a phone, which is mostly used for phone OS tasks one does on a phone and having that in a head worn device one wants to run heavy 3D things on constantly.

        I know others use phone arm chips in VR headsets etc of course, i have a Oculus Go etc.

        But that's for a device which is sold at the lowest standalone VR headset price ranges, not for a device which is in the highest price ranges of its category like the Hololens.

        Oculus sells the Oculus Go as lowest end price option entry level device for VR at reasonable entry level pricing. That makes a lot of sense to me. If MS now sells the next Hololens device with that ARM chip for 200-300 like the Oculus Go costs, yeah, then we can talk about it maybe making sense to have an ARM chip in there, even one which is not the most cutting edge on release.

        But one of the problems of MS and partners wanting to put ARM chips into their laptops/convertibles etc so far has been that they put in those chips which clearly perform way worse still than Intel core chips but then attempt to sell them at the higher price ranges.

        That combination just makes little to no sense to many users. Hence one of the main reasons these devices did not take off way more so far.

        So yes, we will see how it performs and whether it is a good idea once they unveil more about it, but i don't think it is unreasonable i am cautious about this just after hearing this news and feel disappointed that they don't put in the latest greatest chip when the current older one already has been shunned for such more intensive task usage and on top MS is only upgrading this device type in such long timespans and on top is also just trying to replace the Intel chip with a mobile chip where one would be extra cautious to see whether the new one has way better performance (which is reasonable to expect after 2-3 years) or has at best same or maybe even worse performance when running the same stuff (which would be a total nogo).

        • Chris_Kez

          In reply to SupaPete:

          Hololens is not Surface, nor is it an Occulus Go competitor. It is not even a consumer device. Microsoft has a roadmap for this product and they're following it. They know better than anyone the pace at which they can make meaningful updates. They also know exactly what Intel's and Qualcomm's development timetables look like. There is no need to rush this thing. If the next version comes out in Q2 2019, I would not assume that it will be another three years before they iterate. I wouldn't be surprised if it is more like eighteen months.

          • SupaPete

            In reply to Chris_Kez: I would agree with you but there is some contradiction there. On one side you say there is no need to rush the thing but then on the other side why then not do the release a few months later and in return have the latest greatest chip in there (while also having had a few months to test with it properly and make sure all runs well etc) and then release with that and hence have it still use the latest greatest chip option.
            That's the part that isn't fully clear to me, some people seem to think when one asks for it using the latest cutting edge chip that automatically has to mean they have to be among the first devices to use that and/or rush the device out the door then untested.
            One can release something with the latest greatest chip and just do it a few months after it came out so one has time to integrate and test with it properly and then the thing is at least for half a year if not longer still the thing with the latest greatest chip instead of already being 1-2 gens behind on release.

            • Chris_Kez

              In reply to SupaPete:

              When I say they don't need to rush, I mean they don't need to move hastily-- in a way that sacrifices quality just for the sake of getting something out there. But you can't simultaneously wait for the next chip and "test it properly and make sure all runs well". You have to wait for the chip, then test it. While you're waiting, you're not moving it forward-- which means you're wasting time that you could be improving the product. All they can do is keep moving forward, keep iterating. I imagine their goal is to work on shrinking the development cycle, but Microsoft is always going to be a tiny boutique manufacturer. If you're expecting them to be on the leading edge with their chip selection you will be disappointed.

  6. hassan_timite

    Well all this for that ? [/sarcasm]

    At least they could for the Snapdragon 8cx which will be way more powerful than the Snapdragon 850.

    • dontbe evil

      In reply to Hassan_Timite:

      you can just buy the same device from samsung, apple, google ecc... oh wait they have nothing !!!???

    • SupaPete

      In reply to Hassan_Timite: yeah, i don't get what the huge advantage is of an always connected device in this case. I mean it could start making sense if they got the optics to the level where one can use it great outdoors and the whole form factor looks a way where one would actually like to use it outdoors, too.

      Even then, the current set of qualcom chips is way less powerful than the Apple ARM chips and those are way less powerful than the higher end Intel chips. So i don't get the performance equation either.

      I'm willing to be convinced for the better but they sure need to unveil something quite convincing there which is not apparent at all up front right now.

      • Chris_Kez

        In reply to SupaPete:

        This is still not a consumer product; looks don't matter for enterprise/industrial/military uses. If Microsoft wants people to use these in the field then they'll want always connected to be a possibility. Besides, that is simply an ancillary benefit of moving to an ARM SoC that brings much more efficient performance.

        • SupaPete

          In reply to Chris_Kez: Ok, i'll be into it if one can use the thing well outdoors.
          Regarding whether ARM SoC brings much more efficient prformance: that is proven to be the case on lower performance segments, like comparing highest end phone/ARM tablet performance to lowest end Intel chips.
          On higher performance brackets like comparing to a laptop/desktop Intel Core chip, there isn't really anything on ARM side yet which could in real life use compare in performance, so that is still to be seen/proven.

          • Chris_Kez

            In reply to SupaPete:

            "On higher performance brackets like comparing to a laptop/desktop Intel Core chip, there isn't really anything on ARM side yet which could in real life use compare in performance" (emphasis mine)

            The goal is efficient performance not raw performance, and ARM delivers that at all performance bands. Two other things to keep in mind. First, Hololens runs store apps not traditional desktop software. Second, unlike an occluded VR headset Hololens does not have to recreate the entire world in high resolution at high frame rates. In terms of raw visual throughput it is much less demanding to overlay selected holograms than it is to completely replace one's entire view. That's not to say it doesn't require computing power; it does, and more computing power can translate into a wider field of view and richer holograms-- but the critical challenge they're trying to overcome is how to balance that with something that is lightweight and portable (and viable for commercial application).

            • SupaPete

              In reply to Chris_Kez: So regarding the part that Hololens only runs store apps, yes, i know, but seeing how UWP was not exactly well received overall on desktops/laptops, i was actually hoping over time MS would open up to make containerizing desktop apps very easy to do for deploy to the MS Store or would even open up to allow regular desktop apps into the store with no containerisation and then would allow that more open model on Hololens, too.
              At the end i think it holds the amount of content they get back a good bit that it is a much more walled garden thing.
              Them going ARM just further cements them not allowing allowing desktop apps and hence just cements the walled garden attempt further, which yes, is one of the sides i like least about the whole thing.

              But thanks for this lengthy reply of yours and the other ones you wrote in reply to my other messages, in whole and overall while i don't agree with some of the points, by in large you have some fair and reasonable points which have shifted my stance on this topic from looking at it more negative to at least cautiously optimistic =)
              So i look forward to see what they unveil now and the proposed and real life usage advantages the switch hopefully brings.

  7. jtdwab

    Any schedule for reveal of the next gen HoloLens. I don't expect it at CES but not sure when it will appear after that, maybe MMC but also not likely to me.

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