Until recently, Microsoft has mostly avoided controversies like those surrounding its soon-to-be subsidiary, Activision Blizzard. However, while Microsoft’s internal culture does not appear to be as toxic as Blizzard’s, it’s seemed it’s not entirely free of the sexual misconduct issues plaguing some parts of the game industry.
The creator of Microsoft’s Kinect and HoloLens is the latest to land himself in hot water. According to recent reports, Alex Kipman will be stepping down following revelations of his sexual misconduct. While the future of Microsoft’s HoloLens remains uncertain, it appears that Kipman will not be part of it.
According to Business Insider, Kipman has officially resigned, according to a leaked memo from Microsoft. The memo says nothing about the allegations themselves. Instead, VP Scott Gurthrie states, “We have mutually decided that this is the right time for him to leave the company to pursue other opportunities.” However, it also notes that Kipman will remain on for two months to assist with the transitional period. During that time, Gurthrie will oversee a restructuring of Microsoft’s virtual reality division and incorporate it into Microsoft’s Windows + Devices organization.
Kipman’s problems began last month when dozens of Microsoft employees told Business Insider of his alleged inappropriate behavior. Furthermore, a leaked internal document revealed that over 25 Microsoft employees reported witnessing or experiencing Kipman engaging in workplace sexual misconduct. Allegations include unwanted touching and once watching a lewd VR video in front of other employees. Three employees also told Insider that they’d been advised not to let Kipman be alone with women. One former Microsoft executive was reportedly so upset by Kipman’s behavior that she was relieved that the COVID-19 pandemic led to a moratorium on in-person meetings.
Microsoft did not confirm or deny the allegations against Kipman. However, a Microsoft representative denied the claim that human resource personnel were chaperoning Kipman during meetings. Kipman also declined to respond to Business Insider’s multiple requests for a statement and has gone quiet on Twitter since the 23rd.
Kipman was the leading figure behind Microsoft’s struggling HoloLens headset. In February, another Insider report revealed that Microsoft was canceling HoloLens 3 and that the development team was in “disarray.” Over 70 team members left Microsoft with 40 going over to Facebook owner Meta. A multi-billion-dollar contract to provide the US Army with HoloLens-based headsets also appears to be in jeopardy, with a Pentagon audit expressing concerns about the deal.
Not every problem with Microsoft’s HoloLens can be laid directly at Kipman’s feet. However, considering the recent allegations, one must wonder how much his behavior might have contributed.
Source: Insider, TechSpot