Microsoft has unveiled a slew of technologies aimed getting its wares on the Edge, with a titchy SQL database and the developer edition of its Mixed Reality headset, HoloLens 2.
HoloLens 2 for Development
Tacitly acknowledging that, yes, it lost the war on the mobile front, Microsoft is keen that users move "beyond the 2D worlds of the PC and smartphone" and into a glorious mixed reality future courtesy of its HoloLens technology.
Oh, and naturally AI. There seems to be some sort edict carved into the stone at the base of Redmond Towers stating that all tech must involve Artificial Intelligence these days.
To that end, a Development Edition of the new HoloLens 2 headset has been unveiled, replete with $500 of Azure credits and three-month trials of Unity Pro and the Unity PiXYZ plug-in. The cost remains eye-watering - $3,500 (the original development edition went for $3,000) although you can pick the thing up for $99 a month (based on a three year term), perhaps hinting at a subscription future for Microsoft hardware.
HoloLens has always been somewhat of a niche product, eventually launching in 2016 and carrying the slight whiff of a prototype that accidentally made it into production. Despite this, it has attracted a following and is a wearable insight into a post-PC world (or what Microsoft refers to as the "third wave of computing.")
Unveiled at this years' Mobile World Congress, HoloLens 2 took things further by addressing the woeful field of view of the original as well as making the headset lighter, more powerful and, crucially from a first-line worker standpoint, adaptable for custom workwear.
Those Azure credits will come in handy since while the device is stand-alone, Microsoft really wants developers in its cloudy world, pitching the likes of Azure Remote Rendering to take the load off the headset from a visuals standpoint and spatially aware, multi-user shenanigans via Azure Spatial Anchors.
Acknowledging that the thing is still a bit niche (and not all developers have deep pockets) the company said it expected to have engaged with 60,000 Mixed Reality devs over the next 12 months as the new toys eventually make their way into the grubby hands of coders.
Azure SQL Database Edge
No, not a database based on Chromium, but Azure SQL Database Edge, which emerged blinking into the light of Preview, bringing the SQL Server developers know and love to edge-of-network devices, including those powered by Arm processors.
Developers already have Azure SQL Database, if they’re feeling cloudy, and the traditional on-premises SQL Server to play with. That SQL goodness will now spread to the Edge, with the same programming surface area for developers to run connected or disconnected (with local compute and storage.)
Microsoft points to other benefits of running its database on the Edge, such as lower latency, in-database machine learning and security policies set from a central portal.
It is, however, not the only game in town. Back when Azure IoT Edge became generally available last year, the likes of Redis Labs were quick to pop up with database products suitable for perching on the edge in the form of Redis Enterprise.
Developer greybeards may also be stroking their chins thoughtfully and remembering the delights of SQL Server Compact Edition, which also enjoyed a tiny footprint, although by the time version 4 had rolled around in 2011, the idea of using it on a mobile device had been dropped in favour of a new home as an ASP.NET database on Intel hardware.
Sadly, it found itself on the receiving end of the Microsoft big axe o’fun before the company had its come-to-Jesus moment regarding Azure and the Edge. ®