Hello everyone and welcome to ZDTech, ZDNet’s daily editorial podcast. I am Guillaume Serries and today I explain to you why with Hololens, Microsoft crashes on the glass ceiling of the Metaverse.
Yet it was off to a good start.
Seven years ago, Microsoft felt the wind of virtual reality picking up, long before the very term metaverse became fashionable.
“We had the possibility of appropriating this market” regrets even today Alex Kipman, the Microsoft engineer at the origin of these extraordinary connected glasses, and who left his post last June.
But to date, despite two versions of the product, and three prototypes, Microsoft’s place in the Metaverse universe is very small. Its competitor Meta has been the leading supplier of virtual reality headsets for months, with a best seller, the Quest headsets.
HoloLens, which embeds augmented reality technology, which mixes virtual imagery with real-world views, has seen much less success. It must be said that its starting price, 3,000 dollars, was not really an incentive for the general public.
What decided Microsoft to turn from the second version HoloLens towards the professional market. The fact remains that its biggest client, the American army, even today says it is disappointed by the results of its experimentation carried out since 2018.
During combat drills, the headsets would disconnect from local wireless networks, disabling weapon trackers and making it impossible to train with the headset. The devices also struggled to track soldiers’ head movements, making it difficult to place digital objects on screens.
difficulties that have ultimately decided Microsoft to reduce the number of people working on the subject, as well as the R&D budget of HoloLens.
An admission of failure that stirs up a lot of bitterness internally. “We had an opportunity to own this market,” said Tim Osborne, a former HoloLens team manager who retired earlier this year. “We were way ahead on a lot of things. But Microsoft didn’t put enough people or money behind the effort,” he said.
Go to Meta
Still, Microsoft has spared no effort for 7 years. Building the headsets and the software to operate them proved much more difficult than expected, according to company employees.
So much so that at the beginning of this month, Microsoft announced that it would make its software available for Meta’s Quest headsets.
At the same time, Microsoft has put plans for a HoloLens 3 on hold. Total sales of the HoloLens since its inception have been around 300,000, according to IDC. Meta has sold it around 17 million of its Quest 2 virtual reality headsets, which were launched in late 2020.