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Why Ingram Micro Is Getting Behind Microsoft HoloLens 2

'When you actually see it and demo it yourself, you really understand the true potential and power that it can bring,' Ingram Micro's Eric Hembree says of the distributor's deal to sell Microsoft's forthcoming HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset.

Ingram Micro has been named a global distributor for Microsoft's forthcoming HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset, which the distributor believes presents major opportunities for channel partners.

The Irvine, Calif.-based distributor will have the HoloLens 2 on display at its inaugural Ingram Micro IoT Summit on Wednesday and Thursday in Irvine, where the distributor plans to demonstrate how the mixed reality headset can change the way people work in a variety of environments.

[Related: 5 Things To Know About Microsoft's HoloLens 2 Mixed Reality Headset]

In an interview with CRN, Eric Hembree, Ingram Micro's director of IoT, likened the HoloLens 2 to the futuristic heads-up display of Iron Man's helmet in Marvel's Avengers movies, where a graphical overlay allows users to visualize and manipulate virtual items in a physical space.

"When you actually see it and demo it yourself, you really understand the true potential and power that it can bring," he said.

As part of the distribution deal, Ingram Micro will take a phased approach to how it markets and sells HoloLens 2, starting with North America and select regions of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. The distributor will support the roll-out through its global IoT practice, which provides solution providers with a variety of kits and resources for building IoT businesses.

Hembree said the HoloLens 2, which is expected to start shipping to partners by the end of the year, marks the distributor's first entry into the mixed reality space and presents partners with multiple opportunities to bring in revenue, ranging from the sale of the device and software to integration and managed services as well as custom development work with independent software vendors.

"There really are a multitude of different revenue streams that partners can generate revenue from just from the single product itself," he said.

One top use case Hembree cited was training. Using the HoloLens 2 and Microsoft's Dynamics 365 Guides software, companies can train employees for a variety of purposes, ranging from building management to manufacturing.

"Instead of spending time training new maintenance workers, they can arm them with the HoloLens 2 to and allow them to go on-site use guides that are pre-programmed for those specific environments, whether it be the HVAC system, the water heater system," he said. "They can naturally teach them self without having an extra body there taking them away from other important projects."

Hembree said partners can also use the HoloLens 2 as a more effective way to provide managed services with Microsoft's Dynamics 365 Remote Assist software.

"They can remote assist and deliver managed services in a much more user-friendly way versus just trying to walk them through it over the phone," he said.

Hembree said software support for the HoloLens 2 will be limited to Microsoft's Dynamics 365 at first. But over time, the distributor plans to partner with third-party HoloLens 2 software developers and add them to the Ingram Micro cloud marketplace for easy access to partners.

"We have a multi-year plan with Microsoft in place, and they've already started working with [independent software vendors] directly," he said.

Hembree said Microsoft chose Ingram Micro as one of its first HoloLens 2 distributors because of its continued partnership with the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant.

"I think it just speaks to the volume of the partnership that we have with them across the board ranging from our cloud initiative with them to what we're doing from an IoT perspective," he said.

That sentiment was echoed by Matt Fleckenstein, head of mixed reality marketing at Microsoft.

"Ingram Micro’s integrated IoT and mixed reality strategy is aligned with Microsoft’s vision of intelligent edge and intelligent cloud computing, and will help us jointly enable businesses across the globe to work smarter using and learning from the experience HoloLens delivers," Fleckenstein said in a statement.

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