HoloLens, Microsoft's Windows 10-powered augmented-reality headset, isn't on the market yet, but expectations are already building.
IT analyst firm Juniper Research released a forecast today predicting that device vendors will ship more than 12 million consumer smart glasses, a massive increase from the fewer than 1 million units expected to ship this year. The market is expected to pick up in 2017, presumably when HoloLens hits store shelves.
Currently, the market for smart glasses is 15 months behind schedule, due primarily to the demise of the Google Glass Explorer Program last year, according to Juniper. (Google is working on an updated, enterprise-friendly version of the wearable.)
Unlike Google Glass—meant to be worn out in public to an extent, hence the "Explorer" branding—Microsoft HoloLens is a more private affair, said Juniper Research analyst James Moar. And that trait will help HoloLens gain acceptance among consumers.
"HoloLens has identified that many of the best consumer use cases for smart glasses are likely to be found in the home, rather than using the devices on the go," Moar told eWEEK. "This gets over the problem of aesthetics to a degree, as well as the privacy concerns of wearing a camera in public."
Relative to Google Glass and other smart glasses that bank on ultra-mobility, HoloLens is unlikely to venture too far from home, Moar said. Microsoft's hardware will generally always remain "near a power supply, so that a battery that lasts all day is less of a requirement."
Additionally, Microsoft is taking a different tack in appealing to consumers.
"HoloLens' positioning has gone after gaming and media in a way that previous smart glasses haven't, which makes the devices appealing for leisure pursuits, while Google Glass' initial consumer pitch was based on utility," reminded Moar. Instead of grafting navigation, video calling and other familiar mobile device capabilities onto the smart glasses experiences, the company is trying something new.
"While playing Minecraft on your table isn't possible in the same way with a smartphone or tablet, many of the utility benefits of smart glasses are very similar to those of a smartphone, meaning consumers will be reluctant to pay hundreds of dollars for them," said Moar. "Conversely, the leisure benefits are unique or at least new experiences, which may seem more worth the investment."
To generate consumer interest in smart glasses, vendors may need to toss their mobile playbooks. Moar warned of leaning "too much on smart glasses as a replacement to the smartphone. The nearest analog in both enterprise and consumer use is the tablet, and so mobility as such should not be assumed for the devices to be used properly."
And engage both eyeballs, encouraged Moar. Smart glasses worn by consumers "are likely to need to be binocular to succeed—many current smart glasses are monocular, offering only one display off to the side of the field of vision. This kind of heads-up display is immensely useful in the workplace, but does not offer much over a smartphone to consumers."