Microsoft announced this morning that it is accepting pre-orders for its HoloLens mixed reality headset in six additional countries, Australia, Ireland, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Previously, the device was limited to developers and commercial customers in the U.S. and Canada only.
HoloLens was announced back in January 2015, and Microsoft has only slowly made the still-not-quite-there-yet—and, at $3000 per headset, expensive—technology available to customers in the months since then: The firm didn’t start shipping its first HoloLens development kits to developers until early April 2016.
This is the third major HoloLens development since that release. In June, Microsoft revealed that the Windows Holographic technologies would become available in Windows 10 sometime in the first half of 2017, and thus would be made available through traditional PCs for the first time. And those with more money than common sense can spend that same $3000 for that exact same HoloLens kit that Microsoft has been offering to devs since April.
I recommend not doing so: There are only 80 or so HoloLens-compatible apps in the Windows Store, and none of them are what we might call “gotta-have-it” apps. Instead, HoloLens is more properly geared to vertical commercial uses with hand-holding, on-site support agreements.
And this, of course, is the point of the international expansion: HoloLens isn’t suddenly a viable solution for individuals. Instead, it’s limited to very specific use cases. So in addition to the $3000 HoloLens Development Edition, Microsoft is also offering a $5000 Commercial Suite version for enterprises that adds enterprise features and a warranty. Volume orders “are welcome,” Microsoft says.
Note one other downside: Despite the international expansion, HoloLens hardware, apps, and related services and support, are all still in English only.
And as for those enterprise features, they include a special Kiosk Mode, which limits which apps can run on the headset, Mobile Device Management (MDM) capabilities, Azure Active Directory integration, support for Windows Update for Business, BitLocker data encryption and secure boot enabled on HoloLens by default, remote connectivity, and the ability to distribute enterprise software to HoloLens via the Windows Store For Business.
HoloLens Development Edition will start shipping in Australia, Ireland, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom in late November, Microsoft says. It’s not clear if the more expensive Commercial Suite will be available at that time as well, but I’d imagine so.