It seems like Nick Thompson, one of the lead engineers for Microsoft’s HoloLens, just got picked up by Apple. Thompson had already been working for Apple for 7 years before he came to Microsoft, so this change of position may not mean much, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Thompson was coming on board to help with a possible augmented reality feature in future Apple software.
On top of the hiring of Thompson, Apple has also gone about acquiring AR companies like Metaio and PrimeSense (The latter of which is best known for designing the Xbox Kinect.) It’s highly unlikely that this is a coincidence, especially as AR projects like HoloLens (and even VR projects such as Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus, and Vive) come closer to hitting store shelves.
Whether augmented reality is going to be anything more than a fad is going to be difficult to predict (It was widely thought that Kinect was going to be a revolution, but it flopped on all attempts.) That being said, Apple seems to have faith in its viability as a widespread consumer product, and Microsoft has made clear with its HoloLens presentations that AR is one of its prime focuses moving forward.
With the new iOS 9 featuring Maps features such as Browse Around Me, which will allow users to use augmented reality on their iPhones in order to get relevant information about points of interest (for example, if you were to point your phone at a restaurant, you would be able to get a peek at their daily specials or other prices without needing to enter the building.)
Apple has always been a company with an incredible ability to take advantage of new trends in technology and start creating their own takes on the frontiers being explored by companies like Microsoft. If nothing else, competition from Apple is going to make Microsoft work that much harder to keep making HoloLens better.
Further reading: Apple, Augmented Reality, HoloLens, iPhone