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Microsoft HoloLens boss Alex Kipman is out after misconduct allegations

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Insider is reporting that Microsoft’s Alex Kipman, who led the teams that developed the company’s HoloLens augmented reality headset and the Kinect motion controller for Xbox and serves as one of Microsoft’s top technical fellows, has resigned after allegations of verbal abuse and sexual harassment.

Microsoft wouldn't immediately confirm or deny the report, but GeekWire has already corroborated it by obtaining an internal email from Microsoft cloud boss Scott Guthrie: “We have mutually decided that this is the right time for him to leave the company to pursue other opportunities,” he writes. The memo, which you can read at GeekWire, says nothing about the allegations, and says Kipman will stay on for two more months to help with the transition. It also details a reorganization for Kipman’s entire mixed reality division, with the hardware teams joining Panos Panay’s Windows + Devices org.

According to Insider’s sources, over 25 Microsoft employees contributed to an internal report about alleged misconduct by Kipman, including instances of unwanted touching, as well as one time he allegedly watched a lewd VR video in front of employees in the office.

Today’s report comes after a previous Insider report on May 25th, where dozens of employees told the publication about Kipman’s alleged behavior. Three employees told Insider that they’d been warned not to leave women alone around Kipman. When Insider reached out at that time, Microsoft wouldn’t confirm or deny specific allegations of misconduct against women, but did deny that Kipman had started being chaperoned by human resources personnel in meetings.

One former Microsoft executive was so distressed with Kipman’s behavior they suggested the COVID-19 outbreak actually made things better: “The best thing that happened, sadly, was the pandemic,” they told Insider. “So we never had to interact with him in person.”

Kipman hasn’t responded to Insider’s repeated requests for comment, and he hasn’t tweeted since May 23rd.

In February, Kipman responded to an earlier Insider report that suggested the HoloLens division was a mess, and that a HoloLens 3 might have been canceled, saying “Don’t believe what you read on the internet.” Insider wasn’t the only publication suggesting some trouble in the division, though: The Wall Street Journal reported in January that over 70 Microsoft employees on the HoloLens team had left the company in 2021, with more than 40 joining Meta.

Microsoft was counting on a big win for HoloLens with the US Army, which ordered as many as 120,000 IVAS headsets for soldiers. That order would be worth $21.88 billion to the company over 10 years, but the Army has delayed the deal, and a Pentagon audit wasn’t too bullish on the idea. “Procuring IVAS without attaining user acceptance could result in wasting up to $21.88 billion in taxpayer funds to field a system that Soldiers may not want to use or use as intended,” reads part of an April 2022 report from the DoD’s Inspector General (pdf). However, Guthrie states in his memo that the Army did approve an operational test last month.

Regardless of the state of the Hololens program, Kipman is out.

Microsoft wouldn’t comment on the Insider report.

Source: The Verge

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