Microsoft is splitting its HoloLens mixed reality group and parting ways with Alex Kipman, the leader of the group who was the subject of a recent Insider story that cited him as an example of “toxic” behavior inside the company.
The restructuring was announced in an internal email Tuesday evening, shifting the company’s Mixed Reality Hardware group into the Windows & Devices organization, and its Mixed Reality Presence and Collaboration group into the Microsoft Teams organization in the company’s Experiences & Devices division.
Scott Guthrie, the head of Microsoft’s Cloud & AI Group, said in the email that the changes “will align and further accelerate our overall Metaverse efforts as a company this coming fiscal year.”
Toward the end of the email, after describing the organizational changes, Guthrie wrote, “Over the last several months, Alex Kipman and I have been talking about the team’s path going forward. We have mutually decided that this is the right time for him to leave the company to pursue other opportunities.”
Guthrie added, “I appreciate the tremendous vision Alex has provided to Microsoft over the years, and all that he has done to advance our Metaverse offerings. Alex is committed to helping the teams with the transition process over the next two months and ensuring success before pursuing what is next for him.”
The May 25 Insider story, by reporter Ashley Stewart, began with an anecdote depicting Kipman, in a meeting at Microsoft with other employees, viewing what an employee later described to the site as VR porn.
The report described a pattern of alleged inappropriate behavior by Kipman toward women at the company, including unwanted touching, as an example of misconduct by Microsoft managers, saying he got away with it despite pledges by CEO Satya Nadella and other top executives to institute cultural changes.
Microsoft has not commented on the details of the report, and GeekWire has not verified it independently. The company often makes organizational changes in conjunction with the July 1 beginning of its fiscal year.
Kipman joined Microsoft in 2001. He holds the title of technical fellow, and is known for inventing products including the HoloLens mixed reality headset and the Kinect motion-controller for Xbox.
Here is the full text of Guthrie’s email, obtained by GeekWire.
Today I am announcing some organizational changes within Cloud + AI.
The Mixed Reality team delivers Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) products and solutions, including HoloLens, IVAS, and our Microsoft Mesh service, that are key elements of Microsoft’s overall Metaverse work.
The team has made great progress with our Mixed Reality work this past year, and reached two critical milestones this past month:
• Our work with the U.S. Army and the IVAS project (Integrated Visual Augmentation System) to build a next-generation solution where every soldier will use a mixed reality headset, was officially approved by the U.S. Army to enter the Operational Test (OT) stage. This is a huge milestone for the team, and the culmination of years of hard work.
• At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Microsoft and our partner Accenture unveiled an immersive experience built with our new Microsoft Mesh SDK that allows end-users to meet in a trusted metaverse space and collaborate on global issues such as sustainability. The experience was extremely well received with great feedback from attendees, and we now have tremendous demand from customers who want to build similar experiences.
These are significant milestones on our path to build even richer mixed reality hardware devices as well as the underlying software collaboration platform to enable more immersive Metaverse experiences.
Accelerating and aligning Microsoft’s work on the Metaverse going forward
We are making some organizational changes today that will align and further accelerate our overall Metaverse efforts as a company this coming fiscal year.
Mixed Reality Hardware teams will join the Windows + Devices organization
Grace Hwang, Ruben Caballero, Scott Evans, Ashraf Michail, David Marra and the Mixed Reality hardware teams they lead are responsible for designing and delivering transformative mixed reality hardware products. These include both our HoloLens and IVAS projects.
With today’s announcement, they will join the Windows + Devices (W+D) organization under Panos Panay. This move will integrate our Mixed Reality hardware teams as part of Microsoft’s broader end-user device hardware organization. Both HoloLens and IVAS are built using Windows, and this move further aligns our client platform efforts.
Mixed Reality Presence and Collaboration teams will join the Teams organization
Carlos Aguilar, Miguel Susffalich, Nikhil Subramanian and the teams they lead are responsible for delivering the next generation of Mixed Reality presence and collaboration services, including our new Microsoft Mesh offering.
With today’s announcement, they will join the Teams organization within the Experiences + Devices division under Jeff Teper. This move will strengthen and further integrate Microsoft’s collaboration efforts going forward. Creating compelling Metaverse collaboration experiences – especially in Teams – is critical, and the Microsoft Mesh SDK is increasingly becoming an integral component to deliver this.
Alex Kipman to leave the company and pursue other opportunities
Over the last several months, Alex Kipman and I have been talking about the team’s path going forward. We have mutually decided that this is the right time for him to leave the company to pursue other opportunities. I appreciate the tremendous vision Alex has provided to Microsoft over the years, and all that he has done to advance our Metaverse offerings. Alex is committed to helping the teams with the transition process over the next two months and ensuring success before pursuing what is next for him.
I deeply value the significant contributions that the Mixed Reality team have made over the last few years. The work they are delivering will enable amazing products and rich applications that will change how we communicate, work, and learn going forward.
These changes are effective immediately and will accelerate business growth and build leadership capability. I’m very much looking forward to the progress the new combined teams make in the year ahead.