We ask our industry panel – the brightest and sharpest VR professionals from around the world – one question about the XR industry, business, technology or trending stories every week.
Question: With the first Windows Mixed Reality headsets going on sale to consumers next month and Microsoft bullish about being top of the XR pile when the dust settles, how do you think it compares to the more established competitors already on the marketplace? What effect do you think more familiar brand names such as Dell and HP will have on buyers, along with (slightly) lower price points?
The need to define how MR is different from VR and AR means success is no slam-dunk.
“The first Windows Mixed Reality headsets obviously represent another milestone in the development of the digital reality marketplace. The presence of familiar brands like Microsoft, Dell and HP are likely to help draw some of those who have yet to adopt, as are the price points, which reflect the slow but continued downward trend we’ve seen recently.
“Our research shows that the secret to sustained success will lie in delivering a good user experience and a large amount of compelling content that is easily found and worth returning to.
“Another challenge for these devices is the timing of their release. There will be a lot of attention paid to the AR capabilities in the new iPhone and we really don’t know how much share of wallet will be stolen from these MR headsets. And the fact that there will be a need to define how MR is different from VR and AR means success is no slam-dunk.”
The technology needs to differentiate itself with some strong, original Mixed Reality experiences.
“I had a good hands-on experience with the Dell version of the headset last week and definitely found the higher resolution better for reading distant text.
“In terms of cost, if Oculus decides to keep the bundle at under $400, then I’m not sure the price difference will be enough to tempt consumers who haven’t already made their mind up to buy the Rift or the Vive. Surveys have shown that the mass market sweet-spot is still $200-300 for an untethered, PC-free headset, which is where the next Oculus product is expected to sit.
“Content could be an issue if Steam support isn’t addressed. The technology needs to differentiate itself with some strong, original Mixed Reality experiences and mark out its place in the existing market.”
Microsoft have forged their own niche that, assuming success in sales, will become a vital platform for developers.
“Microsoft’s entry to public facing immersive technology is key to cementing the industry’s future. The Windows brand, plus the brands of their hardware partners, make this the most accessible and inviting console/PC VR platform yet.
“Savvy choices around standardisation, but still with wiggle room around hardware specifications and a mix-and-match approach to kit, gives real consumer choice that no other platform is offering.
“With a huge existing Windows userbase and competitive pricing, Microsoft have forged their own niche that, assuming success in sales, will become a vital platform for developers to cater for. So if there is a market place of broad ‘MR’ consumers out there and the supporting software can be delivered with these headsets, then Microsoft has a fantastic offering to service those users.”
VR to date has been clumsy. Not just expensive, but an unappealing and complicated experience.
“I’m positive about these new headsets. Everybody is in a race to prove that immersive technologies can go mainstream. Right now, the smart money is on AR, especially since Apple focussed on it in their latest iPhone carnival earlier this week.
“But full VR itself to date has been clumsy. Not just expensive, but an unappealing and complicated experience. The mobile-like internal tracking of the new breed of MR sets cuts neatly through at least some of those encumberments. And you know what? This MR gear looks cool. I wouldn’t mind slipping on one of those slick HP units.
“Ultimately, I would never bet against Microsoft. When the US giant wanted to get into console gaming, it released the Xbox and the balance of power shifted in that market. The number of places where Redmond runs second (music players, mobile phones) are vastly outnumbered by the overall Microsoft brands the world recognises. And when the hardware partners are companies like HP and Acer, whose logos sit on millions of desks all over the world, you can bet brand recognition will help sway the undecided. Few outside our narrow hardcore gaming world had heard of Oculus Rift when it launched; but if you’re offered the choice of a Dell Visor to go along with the Dell tower you bought and the Dell laptop that goes to work with you every morning, it’s going to be more persuasive for those on the fence.”