Dynamics software for customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP)
Microsoft isn't giving up on its HoloLens mixed-reality headset—at least not yet. Officials recently blogged about the company's thinking about HoloLens and mixed reality at the tail end of a year which hasn't been a banner one for HoloLens.
Microsoft will continue to work on the core HoloLens hardware technologies, including displays, tracking, sensors and battery life. But it doesn't sound like a follow-on to the HoloLens 2, which debuted in 2019, is imminent. Microsoft Mixed Reality Vice President Scott Evans said outright that Microsoft believes its customers "don’t need a successor yet, but they want to know it will be there at the right time."
Microsoft is, however, likely to introduce a number of software and services improvements that will impact the HoloLens directly in the coming months and year. Microsoft continues to tout HoloLens as a key piece of its "industrial metaverse" strategy and set of products. A week ago, officials said that they are combining two Microsoft-developed mixed-reality apps: Dynamics 365 Guides and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, into a single app. They also are making it possible for HoloLens users to access their Teams calendars; join meetings; participate in Teams text chats; and access images or PDFs shared as holograms.
(Microsoft is pushing integrations with work-focused Microsoft 365 apps, including Team as a priority for not only its own mixed-reality offerings, but those from partners like Meta, as well.)
I've heard there are more incremental integrations coming to HoloLens and mixed reality for industrial purposes in calendar 2023. Microsoft is looking to bring more Teams, Outlook, and Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations integrations to the platform, my contacts say. A new mobile app UI and Guides 2D capabilities on mobile are in the cards. And a "Frontline Service Assistant" of some sort is on the 2023 roadmap, too, I am hearing.
Company officials say Microsoft "want(s) HoloLens to be our screens for our frontline workers." And frontline workers (also known as deskless workers), who include customer service reps, medical workers, and manufacturing workers, among other categories, are a key target audience for Microsoft in terms of growing its Microsoft 365 footprint.
I'm thinking we could hear at least a bit more about the HoloLens' future as soon as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January. Microsoft is a featured CES exhibitor this coming year and plans to discuss how the future of car buying and the metaverse intersect. They also plan to talk about mixed reality transforming customer service and customer experiences and connected, autonomous and "software-defined" mobility. Microsoft "Connected Fleets," which officials describe as a new reference architecture for connecting partners via common architecture, data models and business apps all anchored in the Microsoft cloud, also will be a theme at CES, officials say. Connected Fleets and Fleet Management use the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform to obtain data from and manage
Microsoft has not released shipment or sales numbers for HoloLens to date. While the second iteration of the HoloLens goggles offered noticeable improvements over the first, they still feel like a fairly pricey solution in search of a problem, in many ways. Just because Microsoft envisions HoloLens devices as becoming the lens through which frontline and other workers collaborate in the workplace doesn't mean customers will go this route.
"It’s hard to imagine that VR, AR, MR, whatever you want to call it, won’t be ubiquitous and natural in about 30 years, but it’s not ready for mainstream today," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Rob Sanfilippo. "That’s been the problem with HoloLens since it was introduced: unfulfilled promises due to mediocre reliability, too little field-of-view, bulky hardware, and demo videos that exaggerate the fidelity of the holograms that are generated. It can be coaxed to work for some scenarios, but further adoption will require more breakthroughs and clarity around how to apply the technology to feasible solutions."
Microsoft is working on a new set of apps that its officials hope will help the company sell customers outside of IT on the benefits of Microsoft's Power Platform low-code toolset. The deliverables, known internally as "Power House," will include both first-party, Microsoft-developed apps and third-party-developed ones, all built on top of the Power Platform.
The "House" component of the Power House name aligns with the "Rooms of the House" concept that Microsoft uses internally in sales, marketing, and engineering to develop and sell products based on personas, according to contacts of mine who asked not to be named. Microsoft's initial targets with Power House apps include sales, customer service, finance, and supply-chain business-decision makers.
Microsoft's current plan is to start with two or three Microsoft-developed Power House solutions, which it will introduce in preview during the first part of 2023, my sources say. Microsoft plans to include these Power House apps in premium Power Platform plans, rather than introduce them as separate SKUs, I hear. By some point in its fiscal year 2024 (which runs from July 2023 to June 2024), Microsoft is hoping to have more than 10 announced Power House apps and to get third-party developers to introduce their own Power House apps via Microsoft's AppSource online marketplace, people say.
Microsoft is counting on some Power Platform-based apps the company already has developed for internal use to help fill out its Power House line-up. Microsoft's internal finance department, for example, has built a number of apps for its own use as part of its work to modernize its own processes, which potentially could become part of the Power House family. Potential Power House apps could include solutions across auditing, cash-distribution approval and contract management, my contacts say.
Power House apps will be more than just templates, but still customizable by customers and Microsoft reseller and integrator partners. external auditing app for processing and sharing documents; a cash-distributions approvals app; supply relationship management app; and contract management app—any of which could become part of the Power House family.
I've asked Microsoft for more information on Power House, including when it will start making the first apps available in public preview. No word back so far.
Over the past year, Microsoft has been getting more involved in building and selling apps and services to companies in targeted industries. Microsoft already had been going vertical with (members) its growing family of Industry Clouds, which are bundles of apps, services and templates for companies in areas like healthcare, finance, retail, manufacturing and more. At the same time, with Viva Sales, its CRM companion app—and its expected other Viva horizontal apps in finance, IT and marketing. I wonder if Microsoft will shift gears here and use Power House branding and strategy instead of introducing more Viva-branded horizontal apps such as "Viva Sales," as it moves forward.