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WSJ today reported that Microsoft augmented reality (AR) team lost around 100 people in the past 1 year alone, to Meta (formerly known as Facebook).
Microsoft introduced the HoloLens headset in 2016. According to analyst estimates, Microsoft has shipped between 200,000 and 250,000 HoloLens units since its launch. Due to the high price tag and lack of immersive experience, Microsoft shifted the focus of HoloLens to the enterprise market. Even though Microsoft has confirmed that it will release a consumer version of HoloLens in the future, its focus is now on the enterprise market. In fact, Microsoft won a contract to deliver 120,000 military-adapted HoloLens augmented reality headsets worth as much as $21.88 billion over 10 years.
Unlike Microsoft, Meta is focused on the consumer AR market. Recently Meta announced plans to spend at least $10 billion this year on Facebook Reality Labs, its internal division that works on AR and VR hardware, software, and content. Thanks to the aggressive investment, Meta is hiring key AR team members from other companies including Microsoft and Apple. WSJ mentioned in its report that Meta even doubled the salary of some employees.
Microsoft provided the following information to WSJ in response to the AR team attrition story:
- Microsoft will keep advancing state of the art hardware that is more immersive, affordable and in various form factors.
- Employee attrition is a regular challenge many teams face and Microsoft does what it can to retain employees and hire new ones when needed.
According to former Microsoft employees, Microsoft is developing a lighter, more affordable version for consumers, though it is years away from hitting the market. Former employees also revealed that Microsoft hasn’t hired enough engineers to handle the additional work related to the $21 billion military contract. This made some employees question Microsoft’s commitment to developing the technology, making them more likely to accept offers from competitors including Meta.