Microsoft HoloLens 2 preorder 'now shipping' contradictions

On November 7, 2019, Microsoft announced that HoloLens 2 was "now shipping to customers." The confusing bit here was the less-than-perfect clarity in the message and the differences between the various different sorts of "customers" about which Microsoft was speaking. The first sentence in the Microsoft news post was a bit broad, saying "Now shipping to customers, HoloLens 2 uses AI to facilitate one of the most basic human impulses: exchanging knowledge."

If you'll take peek at the following Twitter exchange, you'll see Microsoft's Alex Kipman speaking with pre-order customer Bryan Crow. This exchange also links to the November 7 article posted to Microsoft News called "HoloLens 2: AI & the vision for ubiquitous computing." That article was the source for this whole timeline of misunderstanding and sorta-mixed messages.

In that exchange, Kipman suggests that before the online store activates a "buy" button, Microsoft is "first fulfilling the pre-order interest, which is substantial." This is likely a first-come, first-serve sort of situation, but we've not yet seen proof that any non-enterprise or non-press customers have received a HoloLens 2 device in the mail or through any sort of in-person purchase.

The following language was used in a variety of Microsoft support emails reviewed by SlashGear over the last several days. Taken on their own, these statements seem contradictory – but with the lot, we can do some info-damage-control.

• "The HoloLens 2 has been released November 7th."

• "We expect HoloLens 2 to remain constrained for several months."

• "We have seeded the market with a small number of HoloLens 2 devices to gather feedback and ensure we are meeting our customer needs."

• "While HoloLens 2 devices are now shipping to the customers that have been selected to give feedback, it is not available for purchase at this time."

• "If you have already submitted for pre-order status we would reach out to you once we are able to sell the product."

• "As soon as we are given the ok to start selling..."

• "Microsoft advised us that we are not able to sell them as of yet."

• "We expect that inventory will become available in the next calendar year."

The keys here are the implicated meanings of the following terms: release, shipping, seeding, inventory, and sell/purchase. The process at the moment with this product seems to be the same as it'd be with your average modern smart device nearing standard availability. But this is not your average modern smart device.

The confusion comes in Microsoft's lack of a clear line between this product's "release" for some users and "availability" for purchase by the average consumer. HoloLens 2 exists for testing on a limited basis and is ready (as far as we've been made aware) for use by some of Microsoft's enterprise customers and partners. HoloLens 2 is officially "released" because it is no longer restricted to internal Microsoft testing.

HoloLens 2 is not currently available for purchase by the general public. Microsoft messaging seems to imply that they've shipped HoloLens 2 to some "customers." But to Microsoft, a "customer" that has been "selected to give feedback" is not the same as an individual who's ordered a product or preordered a product.

The good news here is that it does not seem that Microsoft's taken any preorder money from users. This is in contrast with another notable preorder product festival of confusion earlier this year. At least Microsoft's not keeping anyone's cash in limbo.