“The phone is already dead,” says Microsoft’s Alex Kipman. “People just haven’t realized.” Kipman predicts a future dominated by hybrid devices capable of augmenting the world around us, similar to his creation, the HoloLens.
It’s a provocative statement, but it lacks substance in the near-term.
The mobile phone market, after all, is huge. It’s expected to ship 1.5 billion devices this year. And Microsoft, for its part, has decided to remain outside the fray until it can offer something truly different — like HoloLens, perhaps.
Arguing against a mixed-reality future is difficult. At some point, it’s easy to imagine a future where real-time information is piped into a wearable (or even the brain itself). But there are going to be significant steps that lead us there, and today’s bulky headsets are closer to a wobbly toddler than an awkward adolescent. This is a shift that will take decades, and many iterations to perfect. And until it’s near-perfect, don’t expect anyone to trade in their most-used device for a Google Glass-esque wearable or HoloLens-like headset.
These devices will augment our mobile phone use, but they certainly won’t replace it. At least not yet. Re-conditioning the phone-buying public to don a bulky headset instead of a buying a sleek new iPhone isn’t going to be easy, and if the lukewarm reception to VR taught us anything, it’s that you can’t count on consumer adoption of new technologies, no matter how cool they are.
Since Kipman didn’t set forth a timeline, I’d be inclined to agree with him. But calling phones ‘dead’ is a stretch, if we’re being honest. Before the phone truly dies, companies like Apple, Google, Samsung, LG, and HTC are going to make billions, or perhaps collectively, trillions of dollars.
If that’s dead, then you might want to check again for a pulse.