Microsoft Accelerates HoloLens V3 Development, Sidesteps V2

Posted on February 19, 2017 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 48 Comments

It was a little over two years ago that Microsoft first showed the world HoloLens and the company immediately grabbed headlines around the globe about their new vision for the future of computing. Since that announcement, Microsoft has moved the prototype device into production and it can be purchased today, although it is expensive.

Last week, I started receiving tips from several sources that said Microsoft was shuffling its roadmap for Hololens which resulted in the second iteration of the device being canceled. Considering how much Microsoft has championed the device and many believe that this is the future of computing, this didn’t sound quite right.

In an effort to help paint the correct picture of what is happening with Hololens, I spoke to several sources who have direct knowledge of the company’s plans but requested anonymity for this post. With their help, I am able to provide clarity into their development process and why the second iteration of the device has been sidelined.

Back when the first version of Hololens came out, Microsoft created a roadmap that highlighted several release points for the product. This isn’t unusual, you start with the first device, second generation devices are typically smaller and more affordable and then with version three you introduce new technology that upgrades the experience; this is a standard process path in the technology sector. Microsoft, based on my sources, is sidelining what was going to be version two of HoloLens and is going straight to version three.

Why are they doing this? In the two years since the device was first announced, companies like Magic Leap have made big promises about their technology and how it will transform the world.  Today, you cannot buy a device made by Magic Leap nor have we even seen a retail device from any other company in this space. In short, Microsoft has a large lead in the AR space and isn’t feeling pressure to release a product that is only an incremental update.

By skipping what was version two on their roadmap, the company can accelerate version three which will be closer to a generational leap and help keep Microsoft ahead of the competition. My sources are telling me that this version of Hololens will not arrive until 2019.

Yes, 2019 is a considerable amount of time away but for Microsoft, if they would have built what was known as version two, the company would not be able to get version three delivered by 2019. In short, the company is making a bet that the advancements they are investing in today for the v3 version of Hololens are significant enough and add enough value to the product that it will make sure they continue to lead the segment by getting that device to the market earlier.

Of course, it’s always possible the device arrives before then but do not expect a new device this year and likely nor will one arrive next year, based on what I have been told. I did reach out to Microsoft for comment and they provided the following statement but it’s generic and doesn’t add any new context to the information already provided:

“Mixed reality is the future of computing, and Microsoft HoloLens is the future and present of mixed reality. Our commitment requires no roadmap”

It’s important to note that Microsoft is continuing to invest heavily into improving version one with updated software. The company has acquired new talent through acquisitions and onboarding of new employees that will allow it to further enhance the version of Hololens that you can buy today. Seeing as no other vendor is shipping a product right now, the acceleration of a device for 2019 makes sense as it gets a superior product to market faster and with no competition today, this appears to be the right approach.

While some may see this as bad news that a cheaper version of HoloLens will not arrive this year or likely next year, by accelerating the technology that will bring us the expanded field of view with a smaller footprint, the new roadmap allows for a device that is usable in everyday life to arrive sooner.

Microsoft is playing for the long-term with this technology to make sure they are well positioned for the next revolution in computing. By adjusting their path today for HoloLens, they are making sure that they remain the segment leader for years to come.

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