Is Apple, Facebook Or Microsoft The Future Of Augmented Reality?

Sharing processing, display and sensors across smartphones and tethered smartglasses gives you two batteries, each powering fewer individual systems. If they’re connected by a cable, this could give a healthy bump to battery life. But if the tether is wireless (like Apple’s Watch and AirPods), communication between devices takes back some of the benefits.

While Digi-Capital’s long term forecast of Apple’s roadmap proved accurate through 2018, as discussed our forecast of Apple adding a rear depth sensor to its iPhones in late 2019 did not happen. Digi-Capital considers this a key milestone on the roadmap towards Apple launching smartphone-tethered smartglasses as an iPhone peripheral, particularly as a bridging step for developing its AR app ecosystem. Again, only Tim Cook and friends know if this will be added in 2020 (if not, forecasts could be revised).

So together with unconfirmed reports of Apple delaying its smartglasses launch, Digi-Capital has pushed back its base case forecast of Apple launching smartphone tethered smartglasses by 2 years from late 2020 to late 2022. This results in significant knock-on effects for the smartglasses market as a whole in the medium term. Yet if Apple does launch in this timeframe, it could become the catalyst for the consumer smartglasses market (together with Samsung and others). That could also have positive impacts for the enterprise market due to bring-your-own-device (“BYOD”) demand.

Yet mobile tethered smartglasses are peripherals to, not replacements for, smartphones. This means that users would need to pay for, charge and carry at least two devices rather than one. This additional inconvenience and cost could limit consumer smartglasses installed base from Apple (if and when it launches) and others to the low tens of millions of units by 2024.

Microsoft – the enterprise play

Much of Microsoft’s DNA is in enterprise, whether via its Office or cloud-based businesses. Apart from its Xbox business, a large part of Microsoft’s revenue is enterprise driven. So it’s not surprising that Microsoft focused HoloLens on enterprise, largely bypassing the AR consumer market and mobile AR (apart from Minecraft).

HoloLens’ price ($3,500 upfront or $125 per month), form factor (1¼ lbs, 52° field of view), battery life (3 hours), app ecosystem (first and third party enterprise apps) and connectivity (wi-fi only) have worked for it in the enterprise market so far. The best example is Microsoft’s $480 million 100,000 unit HoloLens 2 contract with the US military.

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Don T. Sloan 3 months ago Member's comment

I remember when everyone said Nintendo would be the future of augmented reality, whatever happened with that?