Businesshala News Exclusive | Microsoft Hit by Defections as Tech Giants Battle for Talent to Build the Metaverse

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Nearly 100 people on the team developing Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality headset have quit, most of them for Facebook parent meta

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LinkedIn profiles of more than 70 former employees of the HoloLens team show that they have left Microsoft over the past year. More than 40 joined the LinkedIn profile show, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is making a big push into alternative-reality technology.

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The departed employees include some longtime leaders of the team. Charlie Han, who was responsible for taking customer feedback for the HoloLens, left over the summer to join Meta. Josh Miller, who has worked on the Display team, has in recent months become Director of Display at META. Mr Han and Mr Miller did not respond to requests for comment about the move.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company has been at the forefront of innovation in Metaverse technology over the years and “will advance the state of cutting-edge hardware that is more immersive, affordable and in a variety of form factors.”

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The company declined to share details about the HoloLens team, but said that laying off employees is a regular challenge many teams face and that Microsoft is trying to retain employees and hire new people when needed. He does what he can.

Meta declined to comment about its hiring practices.

Top tech companies poaching from each other and smaller companies is nothing new. What’s worth mentioning now is a startup trying to grow as fast as a company like Meta, which helps organizations adopt augmented reality for their workplaces, said Matt Stern, chief operating officer of Mira Labs Inc. .

“It drives the prices in the market,” he said. “It’s hard for small companies to compete.”

In October, Facebook changed its name to Meta and said it would turn the company around the Metaverse. It said spending on the new unit for the effort would reduce its total operating profit by about $10 billion in its 2021 results. The company said it plans to hire several more employees over the next five years to manufacture its Metaverse products, including 10,000 workers in Europe.

Microsoft isn’t the only company facing Meta’s growing appetite for talent. Apple Inc.

According to former Microsoft employees, who have moved to the Meta and LinkedIn profiles of former Apple employees, Meta is losing employees as well. Businesshala previously reported on Apple’s efforts to limit departures. Apple declined to comment.

The Metaverse is a largely unrealistic virtual arena where proponents say people will work, play, learn and shop. Tech leaders such as Microsoft, Meta and Apple are investing billions in building augmented and virtual-reality hardware and software that could become the building blocks of this emerging digital world.

Virtual reality completely immerses users in a virtual world – for example a videogame – with the headset closed from the real world. According to research firm International Data Corp, Meta’s Oculus is going to dominate the headset market with about 75% share in 2021. Last year 9.4 million VR headsets were sold, a number that could rise to 13.6 million by the end of this year, according to IDC.

Augmented reality overlays digital content, such as 3-D images or visual instructions, on the user’s view of the real world. Some in the tech industry see this eventually as a bigger market opportunity than VR but more difficult to develop. Last year only 325,000 AR headsets were sold. According to IDC, this year the number may increase to 1.35 million units.

Most of the tech giant is now planning to release its own smart glasses, which are regular-sized glasses that include some AR capabilities, so engineers with experience with AR and VR are seeing their profiles and salaries increase. The use of the term metaverse in job listings has skyrocketed. According to job site Indeed, the share of job listings mentioning the Metaverse in December was 10 times higher than the year-ago level.

Microsoft was one of the first movers in augmented reality. The HoloLens was first announced more than five years ago and has grown into one of the most advanced headsets in the world. Former Microsoft employees said that although it has focused on business applications, it is also developing a lighter, more affordable version for consumers, although it is several years away from coming to market.

Former Microsoft employees said Meta is also working on AR glasses, which is making its hiring binge. In September, it made an early foray into the market with a pair of smart glasses in partnership with EssilorLuxottica. Per,

Manufacturer of Ray-Ban glasses. For now, they include more basic functions such as taking pictures and short videos.

Analysts said that because Microsoft has been ahead of the competition on AR, its employees make for an especially attractive target for headhunting.

“Unless someone else ships an AR product, Microsoft has a considerable edge in the AR space,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager at IDC.

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella announced the first generation HoloLens in 2015. Instead of selling its headset as a consumer platform for gaming and entertainment, Microsoft has focused on using it as a productivity tool for workplaces.

Microsoft has invested billions of dollars in developing the technology, but HoloLens headsets, which cost $3,500 each, have sold for little relative to popular consumer electronics.

Microsoft has shipped between 200,000 and 250,000 HoloLens units since launch, IDC estimates. Some senior Microsoft leaders also considered reducing funding for the HoloLens program before the team could win a major military contract, people familiar with their thinking said.

Last March, Microsoft won a US Army contract to develop ways to use AR headsets to help soldiers see through smoke and navigate battlefields. Microsoft said the contract could be worth more than $20 billion over the next 10 years.

Since then the company has not hired enough engineers to handle the additional work, former employees said. This made some employees question Microsoft’s commitment to developing the technology, making them more likely to accept offers from competitors, he said.

The Army project ran into unforeseen technical difficulties. For example, bringing high-quality, night-vision capabilities to the HoloLens proved difficult, former employees said. Departures now can make it more difficult to address these kinds of challenges, he said.

Microsoft said it has a strong team and is making progress on the project.

Write Aaron Tilley [email protected] . Feather

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