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HoloLens: Look who's innovating

Preston Gralla | Jan. 29, 2015
It’s Microsoft, and its latest moves suggest a real shift in the corporate culture.

The fact that it had been brought out of R&D and readied for public display as an upcoming Microsoft product means something. At a minimum, it means that the company diverted resources from what it usually does, which is to find ways to build a firewall around Windows and so protect market share. And Microsoft did this even though, in the short term at least, HoloLens doesn't seem to have significant revenue attached to it.

Forgoing immediate revenue seems to be the theme of Windows 10. That might not be innovative, but it certainly shows a change in mind-set. When Windows 10 is formally released some time later this year, and for a year after that date, anyone with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 will be able to upgrade to it for free. What's the catch?

Microsoft is setting the stage for Windows as a Service. When that happens, Windows will continually update itself with new features. No more big operating system release bashes. But everyone who uses Windows will be enticed into subscribing, with revenue locked down for years to come. Seen in that light, free upgrades to Windows 10 don't seem so altruistic. But it's clever -- innovative, even.

In the end, Windows will offer the same services and information across multiple devices. And those services will include innovations like the Cortana digital assistant, which will run on traditional computers, tablets and smartphones. Apple doesn't have that yet -- Siri doesn't yet run on desktops or laptops.

In the old-and-slow days of Microsoft, none of this would have happened. But those days are over. Microsoft is now a leading innovator, and Silicon Valley will have to get used to it.


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