Microsoft CEO Nadella Defends HoloLens Military Contract After Employee Backlash

Microsoft is participating in MWC 2019, and at the show, it unveiled its new HoloLens 2 headset. On the heels of unveiling the new product, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is defending the contract that the software giant has landed with the U.S. military that will see it supplying augment reality hardware; a contract worth $479 million.

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Some Microsoft workers are complaining about the deal and calling for Microsoft to not work with the military. Nadella has stated that he would engage with employees and talk about the company's role as a corporate citizen. However, the executive was clear that Microsoft would not withhold technology from democratic governments calling it a "principled decision."

Microsoft won the contract from the military in November 2018; the deal is to supply "Integrated Visual Augmentation System" prototypes. Eventually, Microsoft could deliver over 100,000 headsets under the contract. Microsoft has delivered HoloLens headsets to other militaries around the world, including forces in Israeli. The Israeli military claims that the headsets are a good way to help commanders visualize the battlefield and to help medics consult with doctors from afar.

The military procurement documents in the Microsoft contract state that the military wants a single platform that will provide "increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness" in combat. Eventually, the military wants to integrate night vision, communication, targeting, and threat recognition into the headsets.

Nadella's statement on not withholding technology comes after Microsoft workers circulated a letter that was addressed to the CEO and Brad Smith, president, and chief legal officer of the company, asking Microsoft not to supply HoloLens to the military. The letter claims that the contract crosses the line into weapons development. Reports indicate that over 100 Microsoft workers had signed the letter; Microsoft has more than 130,000 workers globally. Google found itself under similar pressure to step away from Project Maven, ultimately a few workers left Google over the project.

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