Microsoft’s Mixed Reality devices now allow you to run desktop apps (Win32) on Windows Mixed Reality devices. You can launch traditional apps running on Windows, such as Spotify, Paint or even Visual Studio. Redmond has announced the new feature in the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 18329.
Who can use the new feature?
The release is available for Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring program. Microsoft did not communicate a release date for all versions and languages. The new feature will be available for all Windows Mixed Reality headsets as well as for the Microsoft HoloLens.
Why does that matter?
Back in 1980, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had a clear mission: “A computer on every desk and in every home”. Today, you can replace “computer” with “Mixed Reality Glasses”. The success of the HoloLens brings us closer to the workplace of the future with Augmented and Mixed Reality.
Until now, the familiar desktop and mobile work spaces we use every day are largely disconnected from the Mixed Reality environments. AR applications from mobile devices can’t be experienced on the web, desktop applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Photoshop or a CRM software are not running on smart glasses and headsets.
Microsoft is building a bridge to connect the worlds to get started with using enterprise software in the Mixed Reality environment. This is pretty smart considering that most of us work with software from Redmond.
What is the impact on the Augmented Workplace?
It is the first time, not considering workarounds and hacks, that traditional desktop applications can be used on Mixed Reality glasses. In order to build the Augmented Workspace, we need more than a collection of great applications. I will explain what is needed so that anyone in any job category can use Mixed Reality.
Ecosystem for enterprise software
One of the main reasons why we use technology and devices is usually due to the ecosystem around it. The best technologies or gadgets are not used if there is not enough/good applications for it. We saw that with the Blackberry - which was a great e-mail machine at the time but a weak surrounding ecosystem. The same happened to the VR headset from Zeiss. Technologically on the same level as Samsung’s Gear VR but without an app ecosystem with no chance of success.
Microsoft already connects the Dynamics 365 platform to Mixed Reality and enables enterprises to create experience room layouts and use the common data services for their applications. At the release event of the first Dynamics 365 business applications in San Francisco, Lorraine Bardeen, General Manager Mixed Reality Business Applications said: “We recognize that employees need information in context to apply their knowledge and craft. Not only on a 2-D screen — but information and data in context, at the right place, and at the right time, that they can use hands-free so employees can produce even greater impact for their organizations.”
Often, I start doing something on my mobile, switching to a tablet or a laptop. The connection between the devices, the software and cloud-based storage is key for modern work tools. Today, you can do great things with your Mixed Reality glasses. You can visualise your prototype and share it with collaborators, set up a machine with interactive step-by-step instructions, learn how to use a heart rate monitor, or get live guidance with remote experts.
What is missing is that these systems are connected to our existing databases, CRM systems, and especially to all the software we have installed on our computer. The integration of Mixed Reality devices into our existing environment work and enabling enterprises to install the same tools on the headsets will break up the silos.
Easy start with familiar look and feel
I have tested many different glasses and headsets, I talked to many people trying to work with Mixed Reality in the last years. I wanted to better understand what users need in order to wear smart glasses during everyday’s work.
What I was always asked when I showed the HoloLens, Meta or other glasses was why the screens were still rectangles like on the computer, even though it was a 3D room. The same question will pop up when we see the desktop applications running on the headsets.
But there is a reason and it makes sense, at least temporarily. Mixed Reality is new to many of us, the gestures to operate these glasses, the way to interact with the content, all of this can be a challenge. Familiar elements in a new environment give users a familiar feeling and thus security in the operation of the application. We have seen this in many tests in the past years and have been able to derive valuable feedback for the development of natural interfaces for our solutions.
A small step for Microsoft, a big step for Mixed Reality
Mixed Reality is on its way into our daily work and life. Microsoft brings us a little closer to the vision of the Augmented Workplace and others will follow.
More than 20 years ago, Microsoft released the operating system Windows 95. Graphical user interfaces and the start button provided the road to success for today’s computer use. I do not want to go that far and say that Microsoft has now paved the way for daily Mixed Reality usage in the workplace, but it’s an important step.