Jerry Nixon @Work: Why you must build a HoloLens app

Jerry Nixon on Windows

Friday, March 27, 2015

Why you must build a HoloLens app

These are becoming the golden years. Microsoft has accomplished several amazing things at one time. First, Windows Core allows a driver tested against x86, x64, and ARM to run on every possible Windows device. Then there is UAP, the Universal App Platform, a contractual subset of Windows APIs enabling Windows Apps and a universal experience across every possible device.


On top of all that black magic is HoloLens, introducing a new set of holographic APIs for app developers. Though it leverages Windows Core and though it leverages UAP, the device-specific APIs that enable the holographic experience are going to be different to what app developers do today. This means developers can use what they know, but will need to learn this new paradigm.

clip_image001Okay. If you are Development Lead at a Microsoft Partner, if you are an independent programmer, or if you are a student hoping for a killer career, HoloLens is very important to you. Why? Consider this.

When I first started learning how to extend Microsoft SharePoint with custom parts and controls, I quickly started including those in my solutions for customers. The resulting solution was better because of it, and the customer was happier because of that. If I had not started to learn SharePoint customization, I would have not included it, I would have delivered less, and my customers would be less happy.


When I first started to learn how to extend Microsoft Office with Visual Studio Tools for Office, I quickly started including those in my solutions for customers. The resulting solution was better because of it, and the customer was happier because of that. If I had not started to learn Office customization, I would have not include it, I would have delivered less, and my customers would be less happy.

This trend continued throughout my career, learning deferred authentication, lightweight vectors, AJAX, mobile platforms, custom protocols, asynchronous encryption, dynamic assemblies, and even the design patterns I take for granted today. I was differentiated mostly because I could produce more business value for enterprises because I could leverage more existing investments, and introduce more of the technology they really wanted.

imageNow we can return to HoloLens…

It is not reasonable that my mom would wear a HoloLens headset to play Minesweeper. If you think the HoloLens is impractical or just a toy, you might not be thinking big enough – you might not be thinking different enough.

Think business

HoloLens introduces an opportunity to developers to leverage the skills they already have to build solutions delivering such unique value that their customers will wet their freaking pants!


HoloLens is built on Windows Core and UAP. That means UAP app developers have the familiar languages, namespaces and APIs they have come to master. Have you let the Windows train pass you by? Build a Windows 8 Universal App today and see how easy this crap really is. WPF, Silverlight, and .Net developers will have the easiest time picking this up and mastering it fast.



HoloLens is big. Do you think using tablets to replace cash registers was the original plan for the tablet? No. Some smart developer dreamed up a clever, new use for an existing technology. Now, do you think anyone will be able to dream big with HoloLens? Yes. And, why can’t that be you? HoloLens is just hardware and a platform – delivering unique, business value is what you do best.


HoloLens is going to be a commodity. That means it is going to be cheap (which is relative, I know). When you include HoloLens in a solution, you aren’t including an investment in some strange, proprietary whatever. You are just including HoloLens, with a standardized version of Windows, a standard application model, with standard languages and APIs, and everything you can expect a development team to already know or easily learn.


Just as customizing Microsoft SharePoint Server with parts, customizing Microsoft Office with VSTO, and everything else you might include in your solution to drive value for your customer, HoloLens is just something else you can leverage. It can make your solution unique. It can make your solution cool. It can make your solution help businesses in brand new ways.


You just can’t decide not to get one. You just can’t decide not to write for one. You just can’t decide not to learn it. If the development community elects to relegate HoloLens to specialized developers, the value of its commoditization and unified application models will be lost to fear and sloth. Instead, you need to get one and you need to learn it.

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but on ourselves.” – WS

When I started customizing SharePoint and Office, I wasn’t a Jedi with those technologies, but I had dabbled enough to understand what they could and what they could not do. Could you explain to me what HoloLens can and cannot do? No. Right now that’s because there is limited information, but after Build (in April) your answer will still be the same if you don’t embrace that awesome developer curiosity of yours and learn what could become one of your most dazzling differentiators.

Something practical for you

Am I saying you should go out and buy a HoloLens? Yes. And you should learn it and get every developer on your team to become comfortable with it, too. I am also saying you should get a Windows Phone so you can start building for devices today. There’s also Microsoft Band, Windows Phone, and even Kinect for Windows – all with a familiar developer experience. If you live in Colorado, like I do, take advantage of the Kinect for Windows hackathon. Catapult yourself and your team to where, in your heart, you know everything is already headed.



And remember

Don’t let HoloLens become a specialty skill. You are going to find the SDK just like every other Microsoft property. It will be standard and asynchronous, full of controls, methods, and classes. I think a lot of the opportunity with Microsoft Kinect was lost to developers thinking it was only for games.

Microsoft continues to innovate, bringing innovations to the feet of their developers. This time HoloLens might be so revolutionary, that you simply must build a HoloLens app. Is it the answer to everything? No. Is the answer to some things? You bet. Is the answer to some things we haven’t thought of yet? Of course. 

All the HoloLens information will be revealed @ Build.

Best of luck!