Microsoft's mixed reality vision: 80 million devices by 2020

Get ready for augmented reality to shake up our world. According to Microsoft, the future's so bright we're gonna need goggles, but how do the figures stack up?

Nic Healey Senior Editor / Australia
Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.
Nic Healey
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Hololens and HTC Vive viewing a shared virtual model.

Nic Healey/CNET

Hololens: It's as much a dream, or a mission statement, as it is a product -- if Microsoft has its way.

Announcing at Computex its shared Windows Holographic platform, which allows users to access Windows 10 using different VR or AR headsets, Microsoft showed off a Hololens user and a HTC Vive user working together on the same virtual model of a motorbike. It's the concept of a device-agnostic platform that can encompass all manner of virtual reality and augmented reality platforms and the applications that run across them. And Microsoft owns the platform, of course.

(What's the difference between VR and AR? Click here.)

While the company still uses the term "mixed reality", Microsoft technical fellow Alex Kipman called the idea "augmented virtuality".

But what that stood out during the conference was Microsoft's assertion that it expected 80 million mixed reality devices to be sold by 2020. That's a significantly bigger estimate than many other pundits and analysts are predicting. Research group IDC, for example, is suggesting 64.8 million VR headsets will be shipped by 2020.

It's especially bold given that Microsoft isn't willing to talk specifics about a consumer version of Hololens, for which there is currently only a developer's edition. In fact, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, suggested that the Holographic platform launch was the company "announcing the opportunity to ask our partners" about pricing on consumer products.

Pressed on the figures, Myerson said the company "wasn't focussed on that particular forecast" suggesting it was "just an interesting data point".

Microsoft does have a vision for where it sees mixed reality in the future and it's one that has it firmly in the driving seat. Let's just hope it's not a virtual field of dreams where if it builds it, the consumer devices will come.

Check out all the news from Computex 2016 here.