Microsoft kills Windows Mixed Reality, making a ton of headsets useless

A range of Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets arranged in rows
Credit: Microsoft

A range of Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets arranged in rows
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has quietly announced the deprecation of its Windows Mixed Reality platform. The announcement includes the eventual removal of the Mixed Reality Portal application and the SteamVR driver from future Windows releases.

Windows Mixed Reality launched in 2017 as Microsoft sought to turn Windows 10 into a multi-device operating system. However, the platform struggled to compete with other VR heavyweights, with an ever-declining market share since its release.

Microsoft has assured existing users that their headsets will continue working, but details regarding future support and updates remain unclear.

Like the now-discontinued Windows Mobile OS, Windows Mixed Reality faced an uphill battle from the start, and wasn’t ever able to really take off. Despite collaborations with hardware partners such as Acer, HP, and Samsung, WMR devices struggled to capture a significant share of the VR market. According to Steam’s Hardware Survey, Windows Mixed Reality’s peak usage on SteamVR was around 10% in 2019, dropping to around 5% of users this year.

Whilst WMR didn't display the staying power that Microsoft hoped it would, these numbers reveal that the platform is still as prevalent as the recently released Meta Quest 3, as well as the popular, albeit aging, HTC Vive, indicating that quite a few VR users could be affected by Microsoft’s decision to kill off WMR.

Ultimately, several factors have contributed to the platform's limited success. The tracking quality of Windows Mixed Reality headsets was a major issue, as they only used two forward-facing cameras, significantly limiting the range of hand motions that could be tracked.

Additionally, Windows Mixed Reality controllers were criticised across the board for their poor ergonomics and perceived cheap construction, especially when compared to the more popular Quest Touch and Valve's Index controllers.

The decision to kill off Windows Mixed Reality has now raised questions about the future of Microsoft’s involvement in VR. While the tech giant has not revealed any immediate plans to replace WMR with an alternative platform, the premium HoloLens 2 headset did receive a free upgrade to Windows 11 earlier this year. Nevertheless, a similar upgrade for existing WMR devices seems unlikely for now.

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