Microsoft Reportedly Killed HoloLens 3

Posted on February 3, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Windows, Windows 10, Windows 11 with 26 Comments

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.

Tagged with , , ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (26)

26 responses to “Microsoft Reportedly Killed HoloLens 3”

  1. Chris_Kez

    Interesting. I was just wondering about HoloLens 3 since we're approaching two years since the HoloLens 2 came out. I am not at all surprised that there could be incomplete or conflicting stories around Microsoft's various AR, MR, and VR efforts. HoloLens is a very cool, but niche, product and Microsoft hasn't said anything about a next version or what they're planning for the platform. Windows Mixed Reality has just been hanging around with limited development from MS or support from hardware partners (maybe there have been one or two new headsets in the last few years). MS announced the Mesh MR platform last March but I haven't heard anything about it since. And most obviously, Xbox is nowhere with regards to VR (Metaverse comments related to the Activision purchase notwithstanding).

    Microsoft just seems to be in limbo with all of this stuff. Perhaps it is some kind of hobby they're pursuing "just in case" but it doesn't seem to be a real focus. And that's understandable given where the industry is compared to where MS is with Office, Windows, Azure (i.e. their real businesses).

  2. rycott

    Ahhh... the Metaverse... exciting for non-tech investors. Cringe for every other sane person.

    • seattlemike

      ”Digital transformation” anyone?

    • robincapper

      Second Life's second life...

    • Daishi

      The whole Metaverse thing is firmly in the category of “shit tech companies say to keep the shareholders happy by fooling them into believing you’re being innovative”. And the Activision Blizzard example is just the peak version of this.

  3. mattbg

    This looks to me like the issue with Windows Phone - that is, the people building the metaverses want to control the experience (or may even need to, given the immaturity of the concept) and Microsoft has the hardware but not the content/community. People building the metaverses will build their own hardware because they want to control the platform.

    China is probably well-positioned to build one metaverse, just like how they have things like WeChat that are so well-integrated. Western countries, not so much.

    My impression of AR/MR is that it's basically something being developed today with the hope that we won't need that big headset tomorrow. If we don't get to "tomorrow", I don't think it will get a critical mass of participation.

    Geeks think the headset is cool but most other people won't want anything to do with it. I think the headset is a real blocker, and I'm not sure the Google Glass stuff is the right way to go, either - especially given that many people prefer contacts or laser eye surgery.

    Metaverse is one of those things like the Internet that needs to be done once, done publicly, and everyone plugs their worlds into it. Normally this would happen through competition, but we know that multiple players are all going to try and build their own. The whole concept is about trying to privatize the Internet, and most people will get exhausted from "not having the right interface", especially if they are hideous and expensive.

    Anyway, I hope metaverse efforts fail. Not because it's a bad concept in general, but because it's being done privately and mainly by companies that have bad intentions baked into their DNA.

    Personally, I think Apple is best-positioned to do well at this - they seem to have the best sense of what will fly with most people and what won't - but only if they open up a bit (like they have done to some extent with Apple TV).

  4. robincapper

    We have a local developer doing wonderful work with Hololens and Azure (to eliminate the 'on device' model size limitations) but appears support from Microsoft is mixed at best. Yet another hardware/software platform* they abandon before it finds a profitable role?

    * Mobile, Fitness, Windows Mixed Reality & 3D

  5. Daishi

    Aren’t we all glad that Microsoft chose to completely abandon the mobile market in favour of ensuring that they were ahead of the game on the next big thing, with AR and the Hololens…

    • miamimauler


      "Aren’t we all glad that Microsoft chose to completely abandon the mobile market"

      Just what would you have MS do given they were hemorrhaging billions in mobile with an ever decreasing mobile user base and market share as well as being all but abandoned by developers.

      This attempted rewriting of history by Windows Mobile fans is not only laughable but also embarrassing.

      MS simply had zero choice in withdrawing from the mobile market and any attempt to paint Nadella in a bad light over that decision is ignoring the facts of the matter.

      • Greg Green

        MS could’ve made new phones capable of running the old oses. My understanding is almost every time they came out with a new phone they came out with a new os that wouldn’t run on old phones. That required developers to regularly rewrite software, and many just gave up.

        that’s why so many ads for services or products would say Available for iPhone and Android. Which was the other problem. MS should’ve made a major effort to support/fund developers in order to get the most used apps on the Win phones.

      • Truffles

        MS simply had zero choice in withdrawing from the mobile market and any attempt to paint Nadella in a bad light over that decision is ignoring the facts of the matter.

        Zero choice? Here's an idea: MS could make a product that people want to use. Apple do it. Android do it. Even educated fleas do it.

  6. scovious

    Hololens should have always been a gaming accessory until more developers of AR and VR became common enough to warrant it's own platform, as well as the hardware to be small and powerful enough to offer smartphone level features in an extremely small and light wearable. Gamers don't mind chunky or expensive technology, so that's where it should have remained. Between Hololens and Hololens 2 Microsoft "skipped" releasing a generation in favor of fast tracking further development of what became Hololens 2, so I could interpret this news in much the same way.

  7. eric_rasmussen

    I don't doubt this, and it's actually encouraging news. I'm a huge proponent of AR, and I believe some form of AR or MR will be the next transformative technology in computing.

    Microsoft has a long history of being the frontrunner in a technology only to abandon it just before it starts going mainstream. This move could signal that AR is about to become viable and popular, and while HoloLens was years ahead of everything else it's fitting for Microsoft to completely botch the technical lead they had.

    • viperx2352

      You are completely correct! I agree this will be HUGE in a few years, and that Microsoft is ahead of the curve with a lot of things, then kills it right before. It is very disappointing. Microsoft seems to only want to play it safe with a lot of things. Very disappointing for consumers. I also feel that in the past the business market ran the world. What was cool for businesses would trickle down to consumers. I feel that has swapped. The issue with that, Microsoft is huge in businesses, but as new consumers enter into business, they will want what they know i.e. Google and Apple. I see this at work, and school already. Microsoft is positioning itself to become the next (unexciting) IBM.

      • thretosix

        That's interesting, I'm wondering if Microsoft patented a lot of the technology so when others actually go forward they make money off the patents.

  8. rm

    I don't think VR for Xbox is a good fit. I mean, you purchase a nice gaming TV for Xbox to not use it and play VR games instead?

    You cannot write an article that has good information by talking to what sounds like a disgruntled x-employee. They are going to be negative.

    • omen_20

      The future of VR is light weight ARM powered using the cloud. Apple could have cornered and taken it away from Meta with ease if they had gotten in a couple of years ago. They can easily outpower anything Meta can buy from Qualcomm. Problem is Game Pass and streaming will give the best experiences within a few years.

      If Sony added a Wifi 6 wireless option for PS VR2 then I'd buy in for this generation (might still with wired). They will have some of the best VR games because they're having real studios work on it with real IP. Meta's library is still mostly tech demos.

      • bkkcanuck

        Facebook and Apple will be very different market segments, and Facebook just wants more people hooked to their system constantly so they can feed advertising to them. Apple will be aimed what in the beginning will be the top end of the market for professional and educational markets (two different segments). (my guess)... Personally, I think there will be a limit to the casual market until it moves closer to what will be delivered in the higher end market (very low latency, high resolution and high refresh rate). Apple's is focused on the long-term market, not the short. Disappointed by Microsoft, and unfortunately my predictions seem to be coming true for them.

  9. hal9000

    To me, the announcement of the HoloLens marked the peak of excitement I had for Microsoft. I thought they finaly got ther sh*t together in the consumer space. Okay, we lost Windows Media Center and Windows Home Server along the way, but the world had moved on.

    But shortly after, everything started falling apart. Windows Phone, gone. Microsoft Band, Groove Music, gone and gone. Windows got stuffed with crapware. Skype was run over by everyone. And surely enough, after much of the excitement for HoloLens, not really much has been done on that truly takes advantage of the technology, except some crappy business apps that look good on PowerPoint and that Managers can pat their backs on for being so innovative. Give me a break.

    Hey, at least it made me so excited that I invested in Microsoft stock, and that has gone pretty well so far. So thank you, Satya, for making me love Windows...

  10. javial

    The mayor big mixtake with Hololens is allowing only the ugly and limited UWP apps, the worst app platform never created and the reason of why "is plagued by quality and performance problems".

  11. darkgrayknight

    A few thoughts:

    Most Pentagon contracts are behind schedule and over cost, so that isn't anything new. Such contracts do have higher stress with trying to get particular parts up to requirements and that can be very stressful and cause contention as described.

    While VR is an active thing, it still is early in the "mainstream" market and mostly just a novelty. It is fun and unique, but needing space to use and not trip over things is still a problem for many. MR would be a better version than VR with being able to place walls and obstacles into the headset. A metaverse (like Ready Player One) is all VR, though MR could be a partial bridge back to reality.

    But AR is the most practical and useful as it can bridge technology into the real world in many vertical markets. I would like AR in my car to highlight obstacles at night or auto-dimming oncoming headlights. Walking down the street in a new city and getting extended information from online about building names, restaurants (with reviews), shops, etc. is a great addition to reality.

    Microsoft has had many a jump on technology waves that were early and way ahead of its time. Tablet PC being a prime example. HoloLens is a jump forward and needs the refinement of another iteration or even a few more iterations to become the defacto standard of AR equipment.

  12. sherlockholmes

    It´s dead, Jim :-P

  13. yaddamaster

    i had the privilege of playing with the origianl hololens and was blown away. Absolutely blown away. Yes, there was the field of vision problem but the promise was obviously there.

    And outside of some very limited vertical market applications Microsoft has done what Microsoft is want to do: be the first to market and then squandor its position.

    Everyone I know that is into MR/AV/VR does Oculus os something similar. It's good enough for most people. Which is sad because MR had such a promising future. Maybe it still does but it seems like it's languishing.

  14. SvenJ

    Guess I'm a bit unsure of what distinguishes Mixed Reality and Augmented reality. Clearly Virtual reality implies nothing is real. It's all just made up. I sort of like to think Augmented Reality is being able to see the actual real world and have artificial things overlaid on it. The HoloLens does this. The Lens is clear, you see actual reality through it. I'm thinking Mixed Reality is combined rendered reality, like from a camera, and artificial stuff, like Pokeman or directional arrows overlaid on a camera view of the street. With Mixed reality, you could 'tweek' reality, since it is produced via camera, as well as artificially add objects, so none of it is 'really real' like HoloLens, but you do get to experience the 'real' environment. Am I off base here? Somebody got a better explanation of the distinction between VR, MR, AR?

  15. july4th

    From Alex Kipman: "don't believe what you read on the internet. #HoloLens is doing great and if you search said internet they also said we had cancelled #HoloLens2... which last I checked we shipped with success [)-)"