Microsoft's holographic ambitions are going global. Today, the company announced that it is launching its HoloLens headset in six new markets - the first time it will be officially available outside of North America, amid what Microsoft describes as "tremendous excitement and interest from developers and commercial customers and partners around the globe".
The company has opened pre-orders today in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Germany, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. The devices will begin shipping in those markets in late November.
Over the last eighteen months or so, Microsoft has worked with a wide range of partners to showcase the capabilities of its mixed reality headset. Examples have included:
- Japan Airlines, which has used HoloLens to explore improvements to its training program for the engineers who maintain its fleet;
- Swedish automotive giant Volvo, which is looking at ways to transform the experience of buying a car;
- German industrial engineering giant thyssenkrupp, which is equipping 24,000 of its elevator service technicians with HoloLens after real-world trials enabled them to work "up to four times faster than before", promising a major advantage in the $44 billion-a-year elevator industry; and
- NASA, which has used HoloLens to help develop its new Mars Rover, put the headset to use aboard the International Space Station, and is now wowing visitors using HoloLens in its 'Destination: Mars' exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center.
In August, Microsoft opened up sales of its $3,000 HoloLens Development Edition headset to all developers in the US and Canada, allowing developers and businesses to buy up to five units without first joining a waiting list to do so. It also introduced the HoloLens Commercial Suite to make the headset more attractive to enterprise customers, with new security and device management features.
Today's announcement is Microsoft's first step towards worldwide availability for its holographic headset, as interest in mixed reality products continues to grow. The mixed reality market includes virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, as well as augmented reality products - from hardware like HoloLens, to software like the hugely popular Pokémon GO mobile game.
Microsoft cites independent research from industry analysts IDC, which states that global revenues for the mixed reality market are forecast to grow from $5.2 billion this year to $162 billion in 2020, and the company is already preparing for this predicted growth increase. The company will bring its Windows Holographic shell to PCs in a Windows 10 update next year, promising "incredible new mixed-reality experiences".
You can find out more about what it's like to use HoloLens in our feature article from earlier this year.