Microsoft’s HoloLens is already available for purchase, but it’s one specialised, early-adopter focused bit of kit with a retail price in the firm’s online store of $3,000; that’s the Developer Edition and Commercial Suite. Still, in spite of the hefty asking price, Microsoft has still sold thousands of units, a lot of those will be devs, of course, but like the HTC Vive, it seems that plenty of tech-enthusiast consumers are prepared to fork out for it too.
But the parallels with the HTC Vive don’t really end there. While it’s certainly great to be shifting a lot of units even to a niche and specialised market of developers and enthusiasts, it’s not the same as mass-market appeal, you know, the kind of thing that shifts millions of Xbox and PlayStation consoles, or smartphones.
That’s why Google has gone down the Daydream View route, a smaller, lightweight, more affordable device that runs on a smartphone, rather than requiring a $2000+ PC to power everything. Reportedly HTC will be going down the same route with a new VR device, possibly this year. Tapping that mass market is important, but it is of course these niche devices that pave the way by encouraging innovation, interest, and the kind of software development that fosters a healthy content ecosystem consumers need.
So now it seems like Microsoft is planning ahead of a more accessible HoloLens device, skipping a “version 2” and going straight to Version 3, apparently (as it did between Windows 8 and Windows 10 – perhaps HoloLens V2 is an existing internal testing model or something, who knows?).
According to the reports, Microsoft is holding off until 2019 to deliver a much improved HoloLens V3 rather than just a tweaked iterative version of what’s currently available. There’s no info about whether it will be cheaper or in what way it might be more accessible to the mass market, but it’s thought this will be a “consumer-facing” model rather than the developer-focused edition we see currently.
Personally, I’d expect a lower entry price to form part of a push into the consumer space. It’s claimed mass production will begin in the second half of 2019 with a projected 80 million headsets sold by 2020. Ambitious to say the least.