Business Insider claims that Microsoft has killed HoloLens 3 over uncertainty about the platform’s future. The report cites 20 (!) current former and current employees, but it also mixes up enough facts to question its veracity.
According to the publication, Microsoft scrapped the HoloLens 3 in recent months, and one of those 20 employees told it that “this is the end of the road … for the product as we know it.” But here’s where it runs off the rails. Other sources told Business Insider that “Microsoft has also agreed to [a] partnership with Samsung to develop a new mixed reality [MR] device,” and that this partnership “has inflamed divisions within the team.” Microsoft has partnered with Samsung on MR for years, and that project has little or nothing to do with HoloLens, which is an augmented reality (AR) headset.
Other fact(oid)s in the article: HoloLens has devolved into “a disorderly assortment of engineers and aspirations searching for direction” in the wake of an exodus of talent, mostly to Meta/Facebook, which is busy losing tens of billions of dollars each year on virtual reality (VR, which is what MR is). And a high-profile HoloLens contract with the U.S. Pentagon is “behind schedule, plagued by quality and performance problems.” There are many internal disagrees over the future of AR/MR within the company and whether Microsoft should focus on the enterprise or consumers. The uncertainty and talent exodus has also fed on itself, contributing to low team morale.
Whatever the truth, Microsoft denies the report.
“Microsoft HoloLens remains a critical part of our plans for emerging categories like mixed reality and the metaverse,” a Microsoft statement retorts. “We remain committed to HoloLens and future HoloLens development.”
Here’s the thing. While Microsoft’s MR and AR efforts are obviously complementary and related in some ways, they are also quite different and have proceeded on separate paths, and still can. When Microsoft announced its intention to acquire Activision Blizzard, it claimed that part of its rationale was to make a bigger push into the consumer-focused metaverse. But that has nothing to do with HoloLens, which is a technical marvel and has found success in certain vertical markets in the enterprise.
There is no reason these two things can’t continue forward as before … assuming, of course, that the defection of key employees isn’t a mortal wound. In many ways, that’s the real story here.