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Satya Nadella shared in a recent interview about his company's roadmap for an intriguing wearable.

Alongside the launch of Windows 10 last Wednesday, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella gave an interview to BBC News.  The discussion wandered over several topics, but towards the end it touched on the HoloLens, a Windows 10-powered augmented reality prototype which Microsoft demoed several times earlier this year.

Asked to give a hard estimate of "When is it it coming?", Nadella obliged.  He stated:

We will have developer versions of it first, and then it will be more commercial use cases, and it will evolve.  This is a five year journey. It's the beginning.  Even the smartphone journey with touch was a 7 year, 8 year journey.  And that's how you should think of any of these fundamental changes.

But we're looking forward to getting the V1 out, which more around developers and enterprises.  And it is in the Windows 10 timeframe, which means it's in the next year.



HoloLens -- the flagship product of Microsoft's recently formed "Microsoft Holographic" subunit -- has been somewhat misunderstood by the public, in part because Microsoft's pitch was somewhat confused.  Ultimately, it appears that Microsoft will not be targeting gamers or even consumers with the device -- at least not immediately.  On the consumer side it's backing the numerous virtual reality gaming headset projects, including Facebook, Inc.'s (FB) Oculus VR and Valve Software's VR project.

But when it also is excited about the HoloLens -- a wearable that's more analogous to Google Inc.'s (GOOG) mothballed Glass Explorer Edition wearable (aka "Google Glasses").  While the Google Glasses analogy will likely be well tread, Microsoft's strategy appears a bit different.  The features Google offered up for the Glass Explorer were targeted at developers, but were largely in the consumer context, with things like navagation, image-taking, and voice recording.  

By contrast the HoloLens appears to be drifting towards more utilitarian use cases, such as academic research, art (e.g. 3D modeling), and other enterprise uses (e.g. mechanical or electrical engineering).  Part of this refocusing may be in part based on Microsoft's observation of the backlash against "Glassholes" (those who wore Google Glasses in public and acted obnoxiously) and the subsequent shuttering of the project.  Ultimately, Google saw the most positivity and strongest interest in educational, research, government, and enterprise use cases for the wearable.  Microsoft has taken note of that and is aiming HoloLens as an even more powerful tool for those niches.
HoloLens
Microsoft's HoloLens is seen in a 3D view.

Cost may be another issue.  Initially Nadella indicated that a consumer-targeted release was planned, stating that it would be priced "for both enterprise and consumers to use it."  The idea was to perhaps use it for Windows and Xbox One gaming applications aside Microsoft's Kinect technology.

However, from a realistic perspective that might be difficult to achieve in the next year or two, given the hardware onboard.  The HoloLens comes with its own dedicated CPU, GPU, and specialist holographic processor.  And it packs advanced sensor, optics, and display technology to facilitate its experience.

The downside is that all that hardware is invariably costly.  An unnamed Microsoft executive told The New York Times in May that it would cost "significantly more" than a game console.  If accurate, the number of interested consumers would likely be a pretty small crowd, so it's not surprising why most of Microsoft's focus has been on the enterprise/education/research end.

HoloLens
A student visualizes the human heart with some help from HoloLens.

Among the current efforts:
Microsoft HoloLens
A Trimble software user visualize architecture with the HoloLens.

HoloLens is already seeing an impressive level of developer interest, even before a widespread V1 hardware release.  Compared to Google Glasses, the HoloLens packs pricier hardware -- but also arguably more opportunity for unique visualization and software controls.  The level of developer interest suggests Microsoft is doing its due diligence in putting a powerful set of tools in the hands of developers to allow them to make the most of the interface.

HoloLens

That's important because ultimately developers make or break any software platform.

Source: BBC News [on YouTube]





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