Mi­crosoft plans to win VR race

Vir­tual re­al­ity ap­pli­ca­tions in China now ex­ceed those in the United States

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By MA SI masi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Mi­crosoft Corp said on Thurs­day its mixed re­al­ity head­set, called HoloLens, will come to China in the first half of 2017, as the United States tech gi­ant steps up ef­forts to tap into the coun­try’s soft­ware de­vel­op­ers and into lo­cal firms’ de­sire to achieve dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion.

Terry My­er­son, the ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of the Win­dows and De­vices com­pany at Mi­crosoft, said the firm will launch HoloLens for Chi­nese de­vel­op­ers and com­mer­cial cus­tomers. He did not dis­close the spe­cific price tag, just say­ing it will be around $3,000, roughly the same as in other coun­tries.

“We be­lieve China, or, broadly speak­ing, Asia, could be lead­ing the world in terms of mixed re­al­ity. We are see­ing more vir­tual-re­al­ity-en­abled ac­tiv­i­ties here than in the United States,” My­er­son said on the side­lines of a man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner con­fer­ence in Shen­zhen.

HoloLens al­lows users to view vir­tual ob­jects and char­ac­ters in the real life en­vi­ron­ment. Mi­crosoft is com­pet­ing with Google Inc-backed Magic Leap and other play­ers in the race for lead in the nascent mar­ket.

The com­pany also pub­lished tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions it co-de­vel­oped with In­tel Corp for PCs that can power head­sets ca­pa­ble of mixed re­al­ity. Len­ovo Group Hold­ing Ltd, Dell Inc and other PC ven­dors will start ship­ping the first VR gog­gles next year.

These gad­gets will come with the Win­dows 10 Creators Up­date, the lat­est ver­sion of its Win­dows op­er­at­ing sys­tem. And un­like other VR head­sets, there will be no need for a sep­a­rate room and com­pli­cated setup, Mi­crosoft said.

James Yan, re­search di­rec­tor at Coun­ter­point Tech­nol­ogy Mar­ket Re­search, said the move is part of Mi­crosoft’s broad ef­forts to build a vir­tual re­al­ity ecosys­tem.

“Mi­crosoft has a dom­i­nant po­si­tion in the PC op­er­at­ing sys­tem mar­ket, but it missed op­por­tu­ni­ties in smart­phones. Now it is seek­ing to repli­cate its suc­cess in vir­tual re­al­ity gad­gets,” Yan said.

Asked when HoloLens will be­come avail­able in the con­sumer mar­ket over the next three to five years, My­er­son quoted Bill Gates. “We of­ten over­es­ti­mate what will hap­pen in the next three years and un­der­es­ti­mate what will change in the next 10 years.”

Yan from Coun­ter­point said: “Cur­rently, HoloLens is still too ex­pen­sive for con­sumers. If the price is low­ered to be­low 10,000 yuan ($1,470), it will gain an ad­van­tage,” Yan said.

Ac­cord­ing to mar­ket re­search firm Net Ap­pli­ca­tions, the Win­dows 10 op­er­at­ing sys­tem ac­counted for 23.7 per­cent of the PC mar­ket in Oc­to­ber, a rise of 1.1 per­cent­age points from the pre­vi­ous month.

BLOOMBERG

A vis­i­tor checks his mo­bile phone in front of a poster of a model wear­ing a Mi­crosoft HoloLens aug­mented re­al­ity (AR) viewer at the Mi­crosoft De­vel­op­ers Build Con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco.

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