Microsoft’s Windows VR is a good move, but the tech giant still has to play catch up

Just last month Microsoft announced its very own Virtual Reality platform, Windows Mixed Reality. This launch is big news for the industry, marking the third major PC VR platform to emerge (Facebook’s Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive both launched in 2016). In addition to demonstrating continued investment from a major technology company into the Virtual Reality space, the Windows Mixed Reality platform marks an exciting opportunity for Microsoft to become the operating system for the next generation of hardware, just as it had successfully done in the PC market. However, for Microsoft to replicate its success in the VR industry it has a lot of catch up to do relative to Google and Facebook that have already announced their new standalone platforms.

It is well known in the industry that the PC VR market has faced slower than expected growth in consumers’ adoption of Virtual Reality headsets. [1, 2]. This slow adoption has been the result of two major roadblocks: expensive hardware and inconvenient set-up. Although Microsoft has promoted that its VR headsets will cost around $300 to $400, the fact remains that this headsets will require tethering to a high-performance PC that costs an additional $1,000. As such, many consumers will likely continue to be turned-off by the all-in-cost of the experience and hardware requirements.

The two major competitors for Microsoft’s PC VR effort, HTC Vive and Oculus Go

With these challenges holding back the industry, it was no surprise that both Oculus and Google have announced their standalone hardware. Ten days prior to the Windows VR debut, Oculus announced Oculus Go, its $199 standalone VR headset. This announcement demonstrated Facebook’s continued investment to make Virtual Reality mainstream, reducing the costs and cumbersome user experience the market is experiencing currently. This hardware announcement coincided with Mark Zuckerberg and Oculus’ publicly announced goal to put 1 billion people in VR [3].

With Google, Facebook, and now Microsoft all making major investments into the VR industry there is no doubt that this new platform has innovative companies with deep pockets behind it; however, who will win in the race to own the Virtual Reality market is another question. Microsoft’s strategy to provide an Operating System that will enable Virtual Reality for all hardware manufactures harkens back to its success in the PC market. With standardized software infrastructure, more manufacturers will be able to jump into this market, growing the optionality and product quality for consumers. And in the end, the software provider enabling each manufacturer products has the highest-margin and most profitable business. This strategy was employed with great success by Windows in the PC market and Android in the mobile market.

There is no doubt that Microsoft’s move last week will benefit all consumers. With more competition and greater investment, we will no doubt continue to see higher quality products in terms of VR hardware and software. So, no matter who will win this market, having Microsoft here will help shaping VR industry. But in order to Microsoft to have the success it wants it will need to quickly expand its offering into Mobile and Standalone VR hardware to capture broader consumer usage and in turn overall platform success.

Author: Brad Phaisan, CEO of OmniVirt

About OmniVirt

OmniVirt is VR/AR advertising platform founded by former Google and YouTube employees. The company powers distribution of immersive media advertising experiences across its premium publisher network, supporting multiple high profile campaigns for clients like Toyota, Clorox, Samsung, Chevron, Universal Pictures and Johnnie Walker. Its technology is leveraged by the The New York Times, AOL, Yahoo!, Time Inc, Wall Street Journal, Vice Media, NatGeo, Discovery and many more. The company has received funding from top venture capitalists

including Andreessen Horowitz, Greycroft, BDMI, Horizon Media, First Round Capital and many others.