Windows 10 Fall Creators Update may help Microsoft and its hardware partners get consumers to buy into its vision of mixed reality computing, but the Redmond, Wash. tech titan is also working on getting more of the world's businesses on board by expanding the availability of its HoloLens headset.
Mixed reality is Microsoft's take on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) at home and in the workplace. On the software front, the company has been working on enabling standard-issue Windows PCs to deliver immersive virtual experiences. The Oct. 17 release of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update helps the company further this aim.
In terms of hardware, this holiday shopping season will see a trickle of headsets from HP, Dell and others that can deliver those experiences without breaking the budget, comparatively speaking.
For organizations that have some cash to spare, Microsoft sells HoloLens, a self-contained enterprise- and developer-focused headset for $3,000 in select markets including the U.S., Canada, China, Germany, Japan, and the U.K., among a handful of other countries.
Suggesting that demand of the pricey headset is picking up among businesses worldwide, Microsoft is getting to release the device in many more regions.
To address growing demand for mixed reality solutions around the world, "HoloLens will be coming to 29 new markets [in Europe], bringing the total number of HoloLens markets to 39," said Lorraine Bardeen, general manager of Microsoft HoloLens and Windows Experiences, in a Nov. 1 announcement made during the company's Microsoft Future Decoded event in London.
The new markets include Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain. A full list is available in this blog post.
Not forgetting early adopters—Microsoft initially made HoloLens commercially available in March 2016—Bardeen also said the company is "working to bring some of the most asked for software updates for HoloLens to our existing customers." That update is set to arrive in early 2018.
For users who are leery about venturing into construction sites with a $3,000 headset, Microsoft has come up with a solution. Also available in early 2018 will be a hard hat accessory that protects HoloLens in rough-and-tumble work environments.
The Skype experience on HoloLens is also getting an upgrade. Microsoft was quick to port Skype to HoloLens early in the device's lifecycle. With Skype running on HoloLens, technicians and other experts can conduct video calls with users, helping them make field repairs or get up to speed on a complex piece of equipment.
The company will soon make those scenarios more accessible and manageable for IT organizations, said Bardeen.
"In first quarter of next year we are shipping an additional holographic remote instruction capability built on Microsoft Teams and Azure Active Directory," Bardeen added. "Our customers will now be able to work more seamlessly within their existing IT infrastructure."