Based on a new leak from Thurrott, Microsoft may be gearing up to launch its next-generation HoloLens headset as a developer preview in the first quarter of next year. That would mean that developers should be able to apply for and gain access to the presumably much-improved hardware and software environment during the first part of the year but there's no word as to when the device would launch to the public. The device is reportedly referred to internally as Sydney but, there really aren't many details to be had as of this writing. The software giant is said to be viewing the market for the technology, in light of heavily increasing competition in the mixed-reality space, as a "must-win" market. To that end, it is engineering the headset to be better in every respect.
Ideally, in the shortest possible terms that means it should be lighter and more comfortable while also being cheaper and featuring better displays. The previous HoloLens featured a Microsoft-made Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) built on Intel's 32-bit architecture. That was backed up by 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, driving two HD-rated 16:9 light engines onto its holographic lenses. The camera was a 2-megapixel shooter. Meanwhile, the entire headset weighed in at 579 grams and had a battery life ranging from two to three hours or two weeks on standby. Obviously, the company could stand to improve on any one of those tech specs or, better still, all of them alongside some other improvements and new features. Since the first development kit for HoloLens was launched in March of 2016, it would likely be unforgivable if it didn't.
Of course, with so little to go on, it's possible that the leaked information about a new mixed reality kit from Microsoft is simply inaccurate. In the meantime, if the rumors about the next development kit turn out to be accurate, it may be possible to speculate about when the kits might first start shipping to developers. The first HoloLens shipped in 2016 but developers applied for the kit in October of 2015. If Microsoft continues that trend and announces "Sydney" during the first quarter, the kit wouldn't be likely to ship before the third or fourth quarter of 2019.