In 2016, it was announced Microsoft and several of their top technology partners were planning to release a slate of Windows Mixed Reality headsets powered by Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system. When added to the Microsoft HoloLens product line, the new headsets create an impressive VR/AR portfolio and are expected to have several broad implications for platform and application developers.
Here are five things strategic planners should know about the Windows Mixed Reality platform:
Microsoft is working closely with OEM partners to bring mixed reality to the consumer market.
In a keynote presentation during the 2016 WinHEC event in Shenzhen, China, Microsoft announced that they were partnering with Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and 3Glasses to introduce several versions of Windows Mixed Reality headsets during the 2017 Christmas season.
Windows Mixed Reality headsets will be cheaper than alternatives from Oculus and HTC.
With sub-$400 prices, the new headsets are expected to expand the market and stimulate demand for VR headsets. For example, Acer will sell its VR headset for $299 and sell a headset and controllers bundle for $399. Similarly, HP intends to sell its HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition for $329 and Dell announced their immersive Windows VR headset will sell for $349. Comparing just price (and ignoring technical specifications), the $400 bundled price is significantly less than the prices of HTC's Vive and Oculus Rift, both of which have been reduced this summer. One reason for Microsoft’s price competitiveness is the way it does tracking. Unlike the Rift or Vive, which require extra cameras or sensors to track your head movements in three dimensions, the new headsets won't need any other accessories to be able to do the same thing due to their inside-out room scale tracking.
Windows Mixed Reality headsets will be available at online and offline stores.
Currently, the Windows Mixed Reality headsets can be ordered on the Microsoft website. Consumers can expect to buy them in the 116 Microsoft stores worldwide. It hasn’t been announced yet if these headsets will be available at other retailers, but Best Buy is already collecting email addresses on its website for interested customers wanting notifications when the headsets are available for pre-order.
Content from the SteamVR store will be available on Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
Microsoft announced that Windows Mixed Reality headsets will support apps and games from the Steam platform, which will greatly expand the (consumer) content selection.
The Windows Mixed Reality headsets are designed to work with less powerful computers.
Probably the most compelling feature of the Microsoft headsets is that they can work with computers that have integrated graphics hardware. In such computers, the graphics capabilities are typically built into the computer's main processing chip instead of discrete graphics cards, which result in a significantly higher total cost of ownership. Integrated graphics processors are typically found on lower-end or mid-range PCs, so by designing the new headsets to work with less expensive PCs, Microsoft and its partners could open VR to consumers who would never be able to afford a Rift- or Vive-compatible PC.
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