Alex Kipman, the executive in charge of leading Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed-reality platform, is leaving the company following allegations of verbal abuse and sexual harassment, according to Insider.
Kipman was the subject of a recent Insider investigation in which dozens of employees accused Kipman of inappropriate behaviour toward women and one instance where he allegedly watched what was described by a witness as “VR porn” in front of other employees.
More than 25 current and former Microsoft employees contributed to an internal report alleging Kipman got away with misconduct including inappropriate touching and comments. It got to a point where managers allegedly warned employees not to leave women alone around Kipman, according to three sources speaking to Insider.
At the time the report was published, Microsoft declined to confirm or deny the allegations made against Kipman and said it was “unaware of any reports” about the VR incident. “Every reported claim we receive is investigated, and for every claim found substantiated there is clear action taken,” the company told Insider. Kipman remained at his post after the group of employees shared their complaints late last year.
The allegations arrived several years after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella promised to clean up Microsoft’s toxic workplace culture. In a 2019 interview with Wired, Nadella said the purging of the so-called “talented jerk” was “done.” However, one employee speaking to Insider claims Nadella “doesn’t like conflict” and that misconduct is “not something he wants to hear about.”
According to Insider, Kipman is now resigning from his post as the lead of Microsoft’s HoloLens, and as a result, Microsoft is reorganising the division. Scott Guthrie, the head of Microsoft’s Cloud & AI Group, allegedly sent an email to employees explaining how the changes will “align and further accelerate our overall Metaverse efforts as a company this coming fiscal year.”
“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 wrote, according to the full text of the email obtained by Geekwire.
Later in the email, Guthrie says Kipman will stay for another two months to help in the transition as the HoloLens team reorganizes. The email doesn’t mention the allegations, stating that it was the “right time for him to leave the company to pursue other opportunities.”
An employee at Microsoft since 2001, Kipman led not only the HoloLens team but the group that developed the Kinect motion controller for Xbox. He served as one of the company’s top technical fellows. Kipman had been the public face of HoloLens, what is arguably Microsoft’s most ambitious project to date, and Microsoft has not yet commented on his departure.
Kipman’s resignation comes at a difficult time for Microsoft and HoloLens. The company reportedly scrapped plans to make one version of a HoloLens 3 — what would have been a successor to its current mixed reality headset — and infighting among those working on the mixed reality platform has fuelled uncertainty about its future.