Microsoft commits to the "Industrial Metaverse"
- Added Microsoft statement on its Industrial Metaverse strategy.
Update, February 15, 2023:
Following reports of job cuts in the Mixed Reality and Industrial Metaverse teams (see below), Microsoft has published a blog post (see sources) in which the company calls the Industrial Metaverse a "transformative catalyst for innovation".
"Microsoft is continually investing in technologies, platforms, and solutions to meet our customers where they are and help them fully realize the value of the industrial metaverse based on an innovation loop of design, build, operate, and optimize," Microsoft writes.
Under the Industrial Metaverse umbrella, Microsoft includes tools for data management, the Internet of Things, digital twins, digital collaboration tools such as Teams, Azure Cloud, Hololens 2, and mixed reality. In the context of Hololens 2, Microsoft speaks of further commitment and innovation to hardware and software for immersive experiences.
"Our commitment to innovate in this space and our commitment to support our customers is unwavering," Microsoft writes.
Original post February 10, 2023:
Microsoft fires "most" of Hololens hardware team, entire "Industrial Metaverse" staff
After only four months, Microsoft has reportedly laid off about 100 employees from the "Industrial Metaverse" team. The Hololens hardware team is also said to be affected by the layoffs.
According to a source of tech leaks website The Information, Microsoft has laid off about 100 employees who were supposed to help companies use an industrially optimized metaverse. The layoffs are said to be part of Microsoft's plan to cut 10,000 jobs by the end of March.
This "Industrial Metaverse Core Team" was created just last October, according to The Information. It was working on software interfaces to control power plants, industrial robots, and transportation networks. Microsoft's Industrial Metaverse team had been working with high-profile customers such as Cocoa-Cola and Unilever from a variety of industries.
In addition, Bloomberg reports that Microsoft has laid off a "much of" the Hololens hardware team. According to a Bloomberg source, this puts further development of the AR headset outside of the Army project in question.
Other layoffs include the Surface device division and Xbox. Microsoft has already announced changes specifically to its hardware teams as part of the layoffs.
Microsoft prioritizes short-term revenue streams
According to The Information, the layoffs will primarily affect areas that will not generate significant revenue in the foreseeable future. A Microsoft spokesperson did not comment on the layoffs, other than to say that "there are no changes to HoloLens 2 and our commitment to augmented reality and virtual reality."
But in light of the shutdown of social VR platform AltspaceVR in March, the firing of XR interface team MRTK, reported layoffs at mixed reality movie studios, and a meek commitment to Hololens 2 hardware with no vision for the future, such statements look more and more like lip service.
In any case, VR has barely played a role at Microsoft for years. The last major Windows Mixed Reality partner, HP, reportedly plans to pull out by 2026. The military project Hololens seems also on the brink.
However, Microsoft continues to work on the XR collaboration platform "Mesh" and wants to bring its Office software to Meta-XR headsets. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke about a software-based Metaverse strategy at Microsoft in the summer of 2022. In January 2022, Nadella called the Metaverse the "next wave of the Internet."