Ruling of the Week 2016.21: Holy HoloLens!

Over the years, I have opined on the tariff classification of a number of gizmos that I think are probably computers. Often, Customs and Border Protection disagreed with me. Usually, this has to do with whether the particular item is "freely programmable" as opposed to having a specific and limited function. For example, here is a discussion on big industrial digital printers. Here is another on a music editing system and another on a smart watch. I also previously admitted to being a middle-aged Microsoft fanboy. So, this next post is right in my wheelhouse.

If you are not familiar with Microsoft's HoloLens, watch this video.

The imported merchandise is the Microsoft HoloLens and its associated "clicker" controller. HoloLens is a computer [spoiler]. It has a 32-bit processor, 2 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, a graphics processor, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Most important for our purposes, it runs Windows 10 and supports applications written for that environment. What distinguishes HoloLens from your laptop is that it sits on your head, includes sensors to track your position, and places three-dimensional stereo displays before your eyes. The result is that the user can be completely immersed in a virtual world or, perhaps even more exciting, in an augmented version of reality.

I can imagine an entirely feasible scenario of basic law office productivity using HoloLens. In that world, I sit at my desk or walk about my office with Word documents and Excel spreadsheets virtually pinned to my walls until I want them. I might have a 3-D virtual model of a client's product siting on my desk. The old practice of staring into a two-dimensional monitor that sits in a fixed location will be replaced by having the data you want, everywhere you want it. HoloLens and a Bluetooth keyboard for text entry might be the ultimate set up. With cellular connectivity, the headset could replace my main laptop, my tablet, my XBox, and my phone.

Don't get me wrong. I don't expect everyone in a law firm or other enterprise to spend the entire day in a HoloLens headset. I have not been in one, but I doubt they are that comfortable. I am just waxing poetic about the possibilities, not the practical realities. I leave that to those of you who have actual access to a HoloLens (or similar device). [Side note, T-Mobile recently announced it will be selling an Alcatel IDOL Windows Phone with VR goggles, which may be the entry way to VR for many of us.] I view HoloLens as the promise of something between the current headset design and the form factor of Google Glass. That is all the functionality of your phone and PC without ever reaching for a physical device.

So, what about the ruling? Oh, that. It is N273804 (Apr. 7, 2016). Customs noted that the primary function of the HoloLens is data processing. It is a general purpose device that allows users to access multiple applications, of their choosing, including mundane tasks like word processing and spreadsheets. Customs, therefore, had no problem concluding that it is a freely programmable automatic data processing machine. Customs classified it in 8471.41.0150, which is entirely correct.


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