Microsoft Expands HoloLens Partner Program to SIs

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Microsoft is making it possible for more partners to build solutions around its HoloLens mixed reality technology.

At this week's Microsoft Inspire partner conference in Washington, D.C., the company announced that its year-old HoloLens Agency Readiness partner program now has a new name: the Microsoft Mixed Reality Partner Program. It is also expanding to accept systems integrators (SIs) and solution providers into the roster of partners that are Microsoft-approved to build mixed reality solutions.

The old HoloLens Agency Readiness program, which was launched at last year's Build conference, comprised a short list of "creative agencies" in North America and Europe -- just 10 at the outset, though it's grown to about 30 today -- that already had expertise in working with mixed reality, virtual reality and 3-D technologies. Microsoft provided these agencies with hands-on training to cultivate their expertise in HoloLens and enable them to begin building solutions for customers.

With this week's announcement, Microsoft is moving to include SIs and solution providers into that roster of certified partners.

"We've learned that successful mixed reality solutions are built on great experiences -- and those experiences require both a creative design component and a strong competency in application and infrastructure integration and deployment. SIs around the world already know how to build, support, integrate, and extend Microsoft technologies to meet their customers' business and IT goals," Microsoft said in its announcement.

The revamped program is also more focused on equipping partners with other resources beyond technical training. "While technical readiness will remain the cornerstone of the program, partners will also get sales and marketing readiness, go-to-market support, and engineering assistance, along with a slew of other benefits," according to this Microsoft FAQ.

In addition, the decision to change the name of the program from "HoloLens Agency Readiness" to "Mixed Reality Partner Program" signals a shift in focus away from the HoloLens device itself and toward Microsoft's broader mixed reality platform.

"Our focus is on mixed reality solutions (as opposed to HoloLens) that include HMDs [head-mounted displays] by our hardware partners," Microsoft said in the FAQ. "In other words, the new program is focused on building partner competencies around Windows Mixed Reality as a platform, not around a single device."

Several OEMs, including Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Asus, have announced plans to release Windows-based headsets over the coming months, with prices starting at around $300. Meanwhile, Microsoft's proprietary HoloLens headsets are available only to limited audiences, costing $3,000 for the developer edition and $5,000 for enterprises.

SIs interested in applying for the program must fill out this survey. They will be notified of their application status between 30 and 60 days, according to the FAQ. Spots are limited; Microsoft expects to have fewer than 500 enrolled partners over the next year.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.