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HoloLens exec plans “non-dev” kit for mass market, but focus now is still enterprise

Nearly a year after Microsoft started shipping its HoloLens mixed reality headset to developers and companies, it remains clear that the new hardware is still years away from mass market adoption. As of today, the HoloLens Development Kit ($3,000) and the HoloLens Commercial Suite (for $5,000) are available in nine different countries, but the company shared last week that only “thousands” of units have been sold so far.

For now, the company is counting on third-party manufacturers to democratize its Windows Holographic ecosystem, and we recently saw a number of companies showing off a first portfolio of affordable VR headsets back at CES 2017. However, Microsoft’s HoloLens will likely remain in a league of its own as it’s still the only self-contained holographic headset in the market today, which certainly explains its premium pricing.

That doesn’t mean though that the company has no plans to bring its price down in the future. In a new interview with CNET, Microsoft’s Alex Kipman shared that “we have plans to become a non-dev kit” that any consumer could buy. However, Kipman is well aware that the $3,000 price tag would still remain unaccessible to most consumers out there. “You have to reduce the price point until it’s affordable to the majority of the populous of Earth, which will be under a $1,000 and then some to get there,” he added.

But Microsoft will likely struggle to bring prices down while remaining commited to delivering a premium VR experience. According to Kipman, the company is currently focusing on improving both comfort and immersion:

I would put the premium on increasing immersion while increasing comfort. Those things pull against each other because they imply one thing: Prices going up. I’m not gonna make the price go up, but I am going to increase immersion. I am going to increase comfort. But that should tell you that, would the price go down in that process dramatically? Probably not. We’re focused on enterprise today, where we’ve been transforming people’s lives since last year.

It’s still very early days for virtual reality, and Kipman explained that he’s currently “in the business of building fans,” highlighting  the hype around early Pokemon GO VR experiences which he described as a “a super interesting exercise.” But overall, Microsoft, like third-party developers is still very much in a learning phase. “I’m in no rush to go immediately to a place that could screw up a first impression as we’re trying to learn something that’s brand new,” added the exec.

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Do you think we're still years away from HoloLens becoming a mass market product?