Microsoft’s HoloLens often stirs the imagination as a potentially game changing device, but the company’s strategy is much more complex, and quite different, than many had predicted.
Luckily, we now have a much clearer picture of where Microsoft is going, thanks to Mary Jo Foley’s wide-ranging interview with the company’s CEO, Satya Nadella.
In this interview, Nadella explained that HoloLens is much more than a gaming peripheral as some had seen it, and it’s actually even more than a consumer product. Nadella, and in turn Microsoft, see the HoloLens as an enterprise and developer device first, with gaming and consumers coming after.
In fact, Microsoft is positioning the first version of the HoloLens as a professional product destined for specific markets: designers, educators, healthcare, engineers and so on. The company hopes that this positioning will not only lead to the financial success of the product but also to its adoption by a wide range of developers. Microsoft wants the HoloLens to change the professional world first, with the rest of world coming afterwards.
In this new light, many of the HoloLens’ quirks, and the way Microsoft is developing the device, start to make a lot more sense. A limited field of view, an untethered experience, a possibly high price-tag – all of these are acceptable or even necessary for professionals and enterprise customers.
Of course, that’s not to say HoloLens isn’t destined for gamers or the wider entertainment industry. Microsoft bought Minecraft to create a super successful game that bridges between our normal gaming experience and this new holographic reality that the company wants to create. But it might not be the very first version of the HoloLens that finds success in these markets. It might be a future, more refined, more powerful HoloLens v2 that truly changes this market.
And that’s not all, as Nadella’s words spoke volumes about the HoloLens’ position in the market, and the way Windows Holographic integrates with the company’s wider strategy. This may be surprising to many, but Microsoft doesn’t view the HoloLens as the be-all, do-all device that will dominate this new field.
Instead, Nadella views the HoloLens, and its eventual successor, as simply a showcase device that highlights what’s possible with Windows 10. The company’s CEO is certain and open to the possibility that other OEMs will build their own Windows Holographic devices. And all of them will be running Windows Universal Apps. Think of the HoloLens as the Surface of holographs.
And that’s the way Microsoft ties the strands together, and all of the company’s efforts come back to boost the success of Windows. The more success the HoloLens has, the better support Windows gets - a virtuous circle which could have important benefits for Windows Mobile, Xbox and other parts of Microsoft.
Now whether the company can actually deliver on these plans and whether developers and professionals take to HoloLens remains to be seen. But seeing the company’s actual strategy gives us hope that Microsoft, finally, knows what it’s doing.