AR: Who Has It Right, Apple Or Microsoft?


Microsoft has been pushing HoloLens for what seems like forever, making the AR the focus of its next big push. Small wonder then that when Apple announced its own AR offering at WWDC 2017, commentators flagged the early death of both HoloLens and Microsoft's AR ambitions.

It's a rather more nuanced situation which the broad strokes of Apple wins, Microsoft loses paints.

Apple's device AR is far from the first offering, it was one of the launch features of Sony's PS Vita. Like pretty much everything Vita related it didn't really go very far. Few games were announced and it made little in the way of progress, in part no doubt, due to the poor sales of the Vita itself. Sony later re-used the technology in its camera app for Android phones, allowing you to add mini worlds and outfits to subjects in the frame long before the current craze of filters arrived.

However this is Apple we're talking about. It has delivered a platform for developers - ARKit - which will ensure that the brightest and the best are already looking at how they can build great apps which leverage AR. The nature of the solution - via the screen of an iOS device - suggests that the bulk of these apps will be games.

Microsoft has been marketing HoloLens to a completely different market, despite having shown off games in all of its major HoloLens announcements, it's real market is for sales to enterprise. AR benefits those who need access to huge amounts of data which either needs to be expensively acquired or carried around on a device. Examples of scenarios where HoloLens clearly works are easy to find - aircraft maintenance technicians guided by AR prompts, surgeons provided with intelligent assistance via a headset UI, even lawyers being able to pull case law out of the ether in the courtroom.

The two solutions are very differently focused. It seems to me that Apple is a shoe in to take ownership of the consumer market, whereas Microsoft is very definitely after enterprise domination.

Given its early lead with Glass, you have to wonder how this plays out for Google in the future.

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