Will Microsoft maintain its early leadership in Mixed Reality and 3D computing?
If you haven't heard, Microsoft announced last Wednesday their major bet into 3D and Mixed Reality which is as historic as when in 1995, they pivoted the entire company to the internet.
As their new promising CEO Satya Nadella, is transforming the company culture and strategy by pivoting to SaaS and the Cloud, they are also leapfroging the 3D revolution with Xbox, Hololens, Windows Holographic, and as of last week "3D for everyone" with 3D scanning, Paint 3D, etc.
HoloLens has been incubated and developed by the Xbox team for the last 5 years and is today the first and only self-contained and untethered holographic computer, enabling you to engage with your digital content and interact with holograms in the real world around you.
Although Microsoft missed two major revolutions even if they actually were the innovative pioneers in these concepts, i.e tablets and smartphones that they lost to Apple and Google, this time around with HoloLens and their impressive inside out tracking technology, I believe that they are 2 to 3 years ahead of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon .
So THE big question is will they be able to maintain their early innovative leadership and establish Mixed Reality and Windows Holographic as the next major client computing disruption, or not??
My sentiment based on my insights as an outsider and former insider is YES, mainly because they are uniquely positioned from a technology and ecosystem standpoints to continue to lead the way. Not only they are a Platform, Tools, Productivity, and Hardware company but also a leading Gaming platform (Xbox Live) and content company (Halo, Minecraft), which neither Apple, Google, nor Facebook can claim. Interestingly enough, Amazon have now a game engine (Lumberyard) and content (Amazon Game Studios) divisions.
Few people understand that Gaming is part of Microsoft DNA and history from Flight Simulator in 1982, 3D Movie Maker (that was simply designed and released literally 20 years ago too early), DirectX in 1995, Xbox in 2001, Kinect in 2010 that led to HoloLens in 2015, and now Paint 3D. All of these innovations come from a unique team of very talented Game and Platform developers that were never really part and integrated with the rest of the company. The irony is that now these same people find themselves leading the core of Windows experiences (Paint, Edge, etc) and the future of client computing (since 2014 Phil Spencer who is in charge of Xbox, and Alex Kipman and Kudo Tsunoda who led together the Kinect and HoloLens projects are CVPs reporting to the Windows EVP Terry Myerson).
I cannot wait to see what the other contenders are going to release. So far Facebook and Google have been spending their resources on VR and haven't impressed the world yet. I'm hoping Apple does not do the same mistake and go straight to AR/MR. Who knows what Amazon is up to, and as for Magic Leap, I worry that they are overly ambitious and over hyped...
In the mean time, you can enjoy this concept video that does a great job capturing what the future of Mixed Reality looks like (note that everything in this video is technically possible in labs today).
PS: In case you're wondering, for me, the difference between AR and MR is the way the digital content is being displayed in the real word: 2D flat screen for AR versus full holographic 3D for MR which is a major difference because 3D is the natural language of our brain. MR removes the cognitive load necessary to translate 2D into 3D, and allows for better intuitive insights, retention, and collaboration by sharing the same mental picture among us.