Impressive as it may be, the HoloLens you currently see right now is still just version 1, which is to say it’s a very expensive prototype. The next version of HoloLens, which might be more fit for public consumption and budgets, will be version 3. Did Microsoft suddenly forget to count? Hardly. However, it is eschewing conventional development wisdom and will leap frog over v2 right into v3. And that’s mostly because it remains uncontested in this still nascent market.
The picture painted by insider sources is a bit complex. On the one hand, it seems that Microsoft has decided to “cancel” HoloLens v2. It’s not canceling HoloLens, mind you. According to those sources, Microsoft is simply skipping v2 and jumping directly into v3, which won’t appear until the year 2019.
The common practice when it comes to developing new devices, especially new device categories, is to have a v1 that is, more often than not, clunk and expensive. Version 2 refines the design down to a more fashionable form while v3 improves on that to make it feel even more like a final retail product. If so, the v3 that we’ll see in two years might be substantially different from the HoloLens we’re seeing today.
A lot can happen in between now and then, especially in a fast-paced technology market, so why is Microsoft taking such a big risk. Simply put, it doesn’t feel there’s any risk at all. The commercial augmented and mixed reality market barely has any players. Its closest rival is Magic Leap, which has yet to actually publicly show a working prototype, much less sell one. That company has even been involved in several fraud claims. Suffice it to say, Microsoft seems confident it can take its sweet time to perfect the HoloLens while the rest of the industry desperately try to catch up.
They say pride comes before the fall, and we’ll have to see if this will be true for Microsoft as well. It has happened before, so there’s no telling if it has grown wiser this time. And while it currently has no competition, Apple has already expressed particularly interest in AR technology, and it is quite known for unexpectedly launching a new device that fans will embrace like the greatest thing man has ever invented.