One of the most outspoken defenders of the metaverse is struggling to find his place in this hypothetical virtual world. Microsoft has reportedly scrapped plans to make the HoloLens 3, which would have been a successor to its current mixed reality headset, and infighting within the mixed reality division has fueled uncertainty about its future, according to Business Insider. .
A source told Insider that the decision to drop plans for HoloLens 3 would mark the end of the “product as we know it.” Multiple sources said that Microsoft had agreed to partner with Samsung to develop a new mixed reality headset, a decision that has reportedly “inflamed” the division within the team. One employee called the association a “shit show.” Insider spoke to 20 current and former Microsoft employees who described “confusion and strategic uncertainty.”
Some people within Microsoft believe the company should continue to make hardware, while others favor moving to a software platform for the metaverse, ie Windows for the digital world. There is also the question of which customer base to target. Microsoft employees are apparently torn between building hardware and software for consumers or continuing their focus on enterprise customers. HoloLens 2, the company’s latest AR/VR hardware, is a commercial product that retails for $3,500.
Rubén Caballero, a former Apple executive who was hired in 2020 to join the mixed reality and AI division, apparently wants to shift the focus to consumers and the metaverse. Others within the team believe they should continue to sell to companies and even honor military contracts.
In 2018, Microsoft won a $480 million contract when the military purchased 100,000 HoloLens headsets, believing it could provide “the increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness needed to outperform our current and future adversaries.” Microsoft employees protested the contract, sending a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Chairman Brad Smith, stating that the deal had “crossed a line” and that they “did not sign on to develop weapons.” The IVAS contract with the US military could net Microsoft up to $22 billion, but it has been postponed because the technology does not meet its intended targets.
LinkedIn profiles show that at least 25 Microsoft employees who work in mixed reality left to join Meta last year alone, and the Wall Street Journal reports that the team lost about 100 people in 2021, many to the hands of Meta. from Facebook’s parent company. The HoloLens team is now unsure about the long-term goals of the project and whether they will transition to working on a software platform.
Disagreement over what to do next has left the future of HoloLens unclear, though Microsoft remains committed to the headset and promises to release more products in the future, “Microsoft HoloLens continues to be a critical part of our plans for emerging categories like mixed reality and the metaverse,” Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said. “We remain committed to HoloLens and the future development of HoloLens.”
Microsoft was one of the first companies to champion augmented reality headsets. Nadella stated in 2019 that “mixed reality is one of the defining technologies of our time” and listed mixed reality as one of three technologies that will shape the future (along with AI). and quantum computing).
Microsoft has been working on its AR headsets for nearly a decade and released the first developer edition in 2016. While the technology was lauded for its innovative approach to overlaying digital objects onto the user’s view of the real world, it was clear that Microsoft has a long way to go to create the headphones you see in futuristic movies and shows. When we got down to business with HoloLens 2 a few years later, it seemed like the company had only taken small steps forward.
Despite slow progress, Microsoft has doubled down on AR and VR in recent months, claiming that its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard will provide the “building blocks for the metaverse.”
Microsoft’s mixed reality plans now seem to be hanging by a thread, and its most ambitious project yet is on the brink of collapse, just as talk of the metaverse, the future it was meant to help create, reaches a fever pitch.