Fresh speculation has been raised about Microsoft’s HoloLens unit, after a high level departure at the division.
Alex Kipman had joined Microsoft in 2001, but Redmond has now confirmed he is leaving the company after Business Insider reported he had been accused of inappropriate behaviour.
Kipman was accused of misconduct toward female employees by current and former female workers in the Insider report.
In February another Business Insider report said that HoloLens 3 had been cancelled in mid 2021, and that Microsoft was instead relying on Samsung hardware while Microsoft took care of the software side.
Indeed, the entire HoloLens program was described as is in complete disarray, with the mixed reality and HoloLens teams fighting over the way forward, centred over a consumer or enterprise (and military) approach.
There was also apparently disagreement whether Microsoft should should carry on with hardware, or instead just focus on software for the metaverse.
The metaverse term, coined from science fiction, refers to the use of VR technology to create a semi-autonomous virtual world that’s interconnected with physical reality.
There were also allegations that Microsoft’s leadership team had largely failed to address the concerns of employees working on these projects, and at least 25 (but could be as high as 100) Microsoft mixed reality staffers had already left Redmond and joined Facebook’s Meta in 2021.
Indeed, one Microsoft employee reportedly called it a “s–t show.”
Microsoft at the time denied that HoloLens was a dead project.
Now Business Insider has reported that Kipman has resigned his position at Microsoft due to misconduct allegations and will leave the company after two month transitional period.
Microsoft declined to confirm or deny the specific allegations against Kipman and other executives to CNBC, but confirmed Kipman is leaving the company to “pursue other interests.”
And it seems that Redmond is reorganising the division, and is planning to shift its Mixed Reality Hardware group into the Windows & Devices organisation.
It is also moving its Mixed Reality Presence and Collaboration group into the Microsoft Teams organisation.
It comes after Bloomberg reported that Microsoft is now deciding whether to continue to develop its AR hardware.
In 2020 it was announced that Microsoft would supply the US Army with thousands of devices based on its HoloLens augmented reality headset.
But in October 2021 the US Army said it was pushing the date it plans to field augmented reality glasses from Microsoft. However it said it remained “fully committed” to the $22 billion contract, after defence news publication Jane had reported that it had halted the project and was re-evaluating plans for the technology.
Matters are not helped when the Business Insider report suggested that the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) for the US military was having major quality issues and was behind schedule.
Indeed, it is fair to say that Microsoft has a truly awful track record when it comes to delivering electronic devices and products to market.
Lets not forget Microsoft’s protracted abandonment of Windows Phone; its failed acquisition of Nokia; the axing of the Kinect controller device; the Band wearable, Zune music player, Surface Neo tablet (the jury is still out on Surface Neo smartphone); the Courier Project (a dual-screen tablet); ARM powered Surface RT devices; the Cortana virtual assistant; Windows 10X; and the Microsoft Kin phone line for social networking.
Despite these many failures, Microsoft does still have a presence in the consumer space thanks to its expensive Surface devices, and of course Microsoft’s Xbox division.
And it should not be forgotten that Microsoft is to acquire the Call Of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Starcraft powerhouse, Activision Blizzard, for a whopping $68.7bn.
This could suggest that Microsoft’s augmented, virtual reality, metaverse ambitions may not be over just yet.