Microsoft plans to win VR race

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Microsoft Corp said on Thursday its mixed reality headset, called HoloLens, will come to China in the first half of 2017, as the United States tech giant steps up efforts to tap into the country's software developers and into local firms' desire to achieve digital transformation.

Terry Myerson, the executive vice-president of the Windows and Devices company at Microsoft, said the firm will launch HoloLens for Chinese developers and commercial customers. He did not disclose the specific price tag, just saying it will be around $3,000, roughly the same as in other countries.

"We believe China, or, broadly speaking, Asia, could be leading the world in terms of mixed reality. We are seeing more virtual-reality-enabled activities here than in the United States," Myerson said on the sidelines of a manufacturing partner conference in Shenzhen.

HoloLens allows users to view virtual objects and characters in the real life environment. Microsoft is competing with Google Inc-backed Magic Leap and other players in the race for lead in the nascent market.

The company also published technical specifications it co-developed with Intel Corp for PCs that can power headsets capable of mixed reality. Lenovo Group Holding Ltd, Dell Inc and other PC vendors will start shipping the first VR goggles next year.

These gadgets will come with the Windows 10 Creators Update, the latest version of its Windows operating system. And unlike other VR headsets, there will be no need for a separate room and complicated setup, Microsoft said.

James Yan, research director at Counterpoint Technology Market Research, said the move is part of Microsoft's broad efforts to build a virtual reality ecosystem.

"Microsoft has a dominant position in the PC operating system market, but it missed opportunities in smartphones. Now it is seeking to replicate its success in virtual reality gadgets," Yan said.

Asked when HoloLens will become available in the consumer market over the next three to five years, Myerson quoted Bill Gates. "We often overestimate what will happen in the next three years and underestimate what will change in the next 10 years."

Yan from Counterpoint said: "Currently, HoloLens is still too expensive for consumers. If the price is lowered to below 10,000 yuan ($1,470), it will gain an advantage," Yan said.

According to market research firm Net Applications, the Windows 10 operating system accounted for 23.7 percent of the PC market in October, a rise of 1.1 percentage points from the previous month.

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