Building on Microsoft’s recent rise in valuation as a company and reflecting the tech firm’s attempts at diversification, Microsoft has won a major military technology contract with the U.S. Army but the move is contraversial with its employees.
Microsoft has moved a long way from developing home and business computer operating systems. The company is now a major player in cloud computing services (the world’s second biggest, next to Amazon) and with virtual and augmented reality technologies. It is with its advances with augmented reality that Microsoft has secured a $480 million contract with the U.S. Army.
The contract is to supply prototypes for augmented reality systems for soldiers to use on both combat missions and for training. If the technology proves to be successful, it will lead to the U.S. military buying around 100,000 headsets. Quoted by The Daily Telegraph, a Microsoft spokesperson said that the technology is intended to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.”
This news comes after the stock market close at the end of November 2018 which revealed that Microsoft is now worth the same, or perhaps slightly more, than Apple, based on share price and market valuation. The reasons for Microsoft’s staggering upturn in fortunes have been discussed by Digital Journal: “An impressive growth curve from Microsoft. How did this happen?”
With the military contract, Microsoft will develop AR headsets – described as an Integrated Visual Augmentation System – that will have various capabilities, such as night vision, thermal sensing and instruments that measure vital signs. The headsets will be a modified version of Microsoft’s HoloLens, a consumer-grade AR headset that has a self-contained Windows 10 computer. The consumer versions retail for around $3,000.
However, not all Microsoft employees are happy with the development of technology for military purposes, according to Fortune. Microsoft is set to face questions, plus protests and open letters demanding change from its workers about this step towards more military and government law-enforcement contracts in the U.S. and other countries. Microsoft employees have also urged the company not to bid on a multi-billion dollar U.S. military cloud contract, with several workers being behind a blog post that stated: “Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war.”