On the heels of Google’s retreat on Glass, Microsoft has surprised everyone with news that pushed the unveiling of the free Windows 10 upgrade off the front pages of The Geek Times. HoloLens — still very much promisewear — would be virtual reality specs that don’t just allow you to interact with your environment but bend it to your will.
The announcement provided a new “Aha!” moment for comprehending Microsoft’s $2 billion purchase of Minecraft. But it also promised much more, and tech writers drooled.
Wired’s Jessi Hempel described as “amazing” the pre-announcement prototype she got to play with extensively. After a mere 40 minutes Matt Rosoff of Business Insidersaid he was “convinced that personal computing is on the verge of a major change.”Francois Roughol writes on LinkedIn that HoloLens allows us to reasonably imagine boundless, routine applications:
From Skype to visiting Mars or playing Minecraft on your coffee table, the new hologram glasses promise a whole lot more than simply immersing you inside a game, it changes your immediate surroundings to display a myriad of applications on just about any surface you’d like. Holograms in our everyday homes is now a not so distant reality, or so promises Microsoft.
All-important comparisons to Star Trek were immediate. Gizmodo’s Eric Limer writesof Microsoft’s “audacious plan to make anywhere a Holodeck,” a reference to The Next Generation (ST:TNG) TV series — and about the highest praise you can hope for.
(Lest we forget: Google Glass also got the Star Trek nod. Google even cited the sci-fi franchise as an inspiration. Sadly, Commander Geordi La Forge himself said Glass would be “a downgrade” from his visor. Any connection to the subsequent trajectory of Glass is, surely, purely coincidental).
How is Microsoft likely to succeed where Google has (at least thus far) failed?
HoloLens would be a wearable but not something that you’d necessarily wear all the time. That was the stumble for Google. Someday we may all wear cool specs that simplify our lives everywhere, but, for whatever reason, that doesn’t seem to be a today thing.
Sometimes success is all about timing. Microsoft threw a party in 2001 for what they called a Tablet PC, and nobody came. Apple killed it with the iPad a decade later, and Microsoft is now gallantly back in the game with the Surface Pro 3. A couple of years earlier Microsoft made some bold predictions about the e-book business (which, by the way, didn’t exist). They pretty much nailed it, but the company didn’t do enough to capitalize on what it correctly saw was coming. Amazon went on to own the category with the iconic Kindle.
Timing is important, but it isn’t everything. Sometimes it’s more about the road you take. Social networks were already somewhat passé when Facebook hit the scene. Facebook might not have become the hands-down global social network leader it is today had it not started as the most exclusive club in the world, limited to Harvard University students, which slowly found its way into the hearts and minds of everyone else.
Now Microsoft is elbowing in on the Face Race somewhere in between Facebook — which bought the VR company Oculus Rift for $2 billion — and Google, whose Glass has been either promoted or demoted from the “X” Moon shot division to a product group headed by Silicon Valley legend Tony Fadell, a father of the iPod. (For what it’s worth, I think Glass is dead, Jim, but plenty of commenters on my post fervently believe in a Phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes rather than a dead duck scenario).
Frankly, I don’t know what to make of Google Cardboard. Or of this guy, who is takingRobert Scoble’s one-time fascination with Google Glass to a whole ‘nother level. AndMagic Leap is still something of a leap of faith.
We have no idea when HoloLens will be available, or what it will cost. But we do know this: Microsoft is focusing on existing uses cases where one can imagine pent-up demand for a device that could then gain wider acceptance.
That is the exact opposite of the Google approach with Glass, which out-of-the-gate was positioned as a hipster device that you and I would constantly use from dawn to dusk and which, instead, found some traction in niche applications like medicine. Take a look at the official launch video, and read the one-and-only Steven Levy’s original reporting on Glass. Google was anticipating world domination, not a reboot in 2-1/2 years and the thanks of a grateful nation of MDs.
If the promise matches the hype, and if the price right (Glass cost $1,500), HoloLens could very well be the Trojan Horse that unlocks a vast market. Even if they are not the fashion statement you require in public, you might want to wear a pair around your connected house in the coming Internet of Things era. A consumer item that you’d use at home and work, but not necessarily in between.
Until you do, just as computing started at the workplace, entered the home and only then became something we did in between.
If handled right, Microsoft could justify years of R&D and iteration for these specs not on spec but on the backs — well, the noses — of hordes of happy niche users.
Why are some brilliant things ahead their time? It’s a koan: Is the public not ready for the product? Or is the product not ready for the public?
Maybe the trick is not trying to make something for everybody first.
Post from: Linkedin article