Microsoft Opens Windows Holographic to OEMs

Microsoft's partners can get to work on products using the company's augmented-reality technology.

Microsoft HoloLens

Windows Holographic, the augmented- or mixed-reality technology that powers Microsoft's HoloLens headset, is now available to the company's hardware partners, announced Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, on June 1.

"Today, we announced that Windows Holographic is coming to devices of all shapes and sizes from fully immersive virtual reality to fully untethered holographic computing, he wrote in a blog posting. "Today we invited our OEM [original equipment manufacturer], ODM [original design manufacturer] and hardware partners to build PCs, displays, accessories and mixed-reality devices with the Windows Holographic platform."

To date, HoloLens (pictured) has had the lonely duty of serving as the physical embodiment of Windows Holographic. The device, currently available to developers with $3,000 to spare, overlays 3D "holograms" over a user's physical environment.

While HoloLens opens up new consumer-grade experiences, like video games that bleed into the real world, Microsoft envisions enterprises snapping up the hardware to improve collaboration, aid in remote repairs, or create immersive environments for 3D modeling and printing. In March, Microsoft announced that it had forged a partnership with Lowe's to bring HoloLens-powered virtual kitchen remodeling demonstrations to the home improvement chain's customers.

Now, Microsoft's hardware partners can take a crack at building devices that rival HoloLens.

The first batch of companies to take Microsoft up on its offer includes processor makers Intel, AMD and Qualcomm. Among PC manufacturers, the big brands are well-represented by Dell, HP and Lenovo. Acer, Asus, CyberPowerPC, Falcon Northwest, iBuyPower, Lenovo and MSI are also onboard, said Myerson.

Interestingly, HTC is also joining the Windows Holographic fray. HTC has a virtual-reality (VR) headset of its own called the Vive, which it hopes will help reverse the smartphone and mobile device company's flagging fortunes.

For the first quarter of 2016, HTC suffered a 64 percent year-over-year drop in revenue and a net loss of $80 million. Apart from the its new flagship smartphone, the HTC 10, the Taiwanese firm is looking to its Windows-compatible Vive hardware to help burnish its brand.

"The media and consumer buzz around HTC, including for the keenly awaited launches of the flagship smartphone and Vive virtual-reality system, clearly demonstrate our leadership in innovation and have provided a great boost to the HTC brand. We have been working hard to lay the groundwork over the past year, streamlining processes and optimizing resources to enable us to develop the best products in the most effective way," said Cher Wang, chairwoman and CEO of HTC, said in a May 9 statement.

According to Microsoft, the market for VR devices is expected to reach 80 million units per year by 2020. A recent report from Strategy Analytics indicates that device makers will fall well short of that lofty amount this year as they take early steps to stoke demand. In 2016, the worldwide VR headset market will generate $895 billion in revenue on sales of 12.8 million units.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...