The Microsoft Corporation (aka just Microsoft) is primarily a software company based in Redmond, Washington. A few people will be surprised about it’s inclusion on our list of The Big 6 futurist tech companies. Until recently it would not have been (and it’s inclusion in the list isn’t necessarily permanent). However, recently there’s been a shift in product development that warrants it’s inclusion on this list. I’m not privy to the goings on behind the Microsoft boardroom door, but someone in the last few years has made a serious case to invest money into new and experimental technologies. Having said that, there is a sense of the older executives having a hand in the decision-making process, which is unsurprising given the age of the company.
The main reason Microsoft is being included in The Big 6, HoloLens . HoloLens (more details below) is an augmented reality headset, which has been demonstrated to have many capabilities from games, to design, to communication and workplace assistance. Having tested the HoloLens myself, I can say it’s not a gimmick. I was expecting it to be a bit oversold, to put it mildly. Before I tried it, I wondered about the quality of the holograms and the stability & tracking. After trying it out, I’m totally convinced in the technology. The holograms stayed almost perfectly in place when I was walking around. This level of tracking and localisation is notoriously difficult, but they seemed to have pulled it off. The field of view is a bit horizontally narrow, and the speech commands are a bit temperamental (but when aren’t they on any device). But I have no doubt these points will have significantly improved by the consumer version.
The key thing here is that of all our featured Big 6 companies, Microsoft are the only ones with a focus on the workplace. They already dominate this market, so they are certainly sticking to what they know (probably at the request of the older exec team). The games, home use and art projects are the gimmicks just to demonstrate to the general public. In the workplace is its real value. It’s only in its development version, so we’ll be cautious about its future as an off-the-shelf product. Here are a few serious use cases:
- In military briefings.
- Mobile engineers needing assistance or on site training.
- Architecture design.
- Demonstrating 3D model of any manufacturing project to clients.
- Education, both institutional and workplace training.
Expect the HoloLens to be in workplaces across the world by 2020, with it being ‘essential’ to some companies and industries by 2023. This will ensure Microsoft’s dominance of the workplace for many years to come.
The Microsoft HoloLens is currently in it’s development version and will cost $3000 if you want one. It will be widely adopted into many workplaces by 2023. If it ever becomes widely adopted in the home (which is at this point seen as unlikely) it would be around 2025–2026
The Surface Studio is Microsoft’s attempt to tackle Apple in the professional artist arena (once again a focus on the workplace). If you need proof they aim this at Apple customers, just check out the introduction video which is incredible. It should be noted that this is not a product for your home, it’s for the workplace and it specs are configured as such. The Surface Studio’s price starts at $3000 and is scheduled to ship ‘Early 2017’. However with any new piece of tech version 2.0 will be the one to get. Expect this late 2018 to early 2019.