Microsoft's mixed reality isn't dead, it's just moving to where businesses will pay for it

Anyone concerned that Microsoft is evolving into a more accessible version of IBM, rather than the consumer company many would like it to be, isn't going to feel any better after the company's Build developer conference starting May 8 in Seattle. Two expected moves will reinforce that enterprise direction: a Kinect sensor for Azure, and two HoloLens apps that are being adapted for businesses using mixed reality.

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella is expected to open Build on Monday by describing the “intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge,” which has been Microsoft’s unofficial mantra for about a year. Microsoft plans to define what it means by intelligent edge: By 2020, there will be about 30 billion connected devices, each generating about 1.5GB of data per day. Smart buildings and connected factories will add to that. Expect to hear quite a bit about the Internet of Things on Monday—“the world is a computer,” Nadella is expected to say.

But the technology that was once enjoyed by consumers is now being extended into businesses, where the margins are higher and businesses will pay for subscriptions. Project Kinect for Azure will debut in 2019, using what was considered the eyes of the Xbox as a product for developers. One of the original demos attached to the HoloLens, Remote Assist, is also being pitched for “frontline workers” using mixed reality for training or collaboration.

Windows users will be tossed a bone, though: Microsoft plans to announce a partnership with DJI, the world’s largest drone company, on an SDK for Windows PCs. The SDK means that Windows users will essentially be able to remote-pilot drones right from their PC, including flight control and real-time data transfer.

Why this matters: If you’re a Windows fan, a consumer, or even an office worker who uses Windows, you may not hear a lot that interests you early in the day at Microsoft Build. Microsoft’s moved on from its arms race for Windows app developers—and now is engaged in an arms race on the AI front, competing with Google and Amazon and others to build for and with AI.

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