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Microsoft CEO says contract to supply the US Army with AR headsets will continue

By Cal Jeffrey · 25 replies
Feb 25, 2019
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  1. It appears that despite worker backlash, Microsoft will continue working on a $479 million military contract. As we reported back in November 2018, the Redmond-based tech giant agreed to supply the US Army with 100,000 mixed reality headsets based on the HoloLens.

    Pushback from more than 100 employees via an open letter to executives has failed to dissuade the company’s commitment to the deal. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke with CNN at MWC 2019 and defended the company’s stance to providing the military with the high-tech gear it wants.

    “We made a principled decision that we're not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy,” said Nadella. “We were very transparent about that decision, and we'll continue to have that dialogue [with employees].”

    Employees seem to be miffed with the idea that technology they are working on will be used to make soldiers more deadly. According to the contract proposal, the Army’s goals is to provide troops with “increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness” during combat missions. However, creating a more effective soldier is not the only benefit the tech will bring.

    “The Israeli military, which has taken delivery of some HoloLens headsets, says the technology can be used to help commanders visualize the battlefield and field medics to consult doctors,” notes CNN.

    Being able to see a visualization of the combat zone can reduce collateral damage, and use by field medics has obvious life-saving benefits. Some would argue that such technology would reduce the overall casualties of war rather than increase them by making battles more precise and less drawn out.

    Nadella reinforces what Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said back in November.

    “To withdraw from this market is to reduce our opportunity to engage in the public debate about how new technologies can best be used in a responsible way. We are not going to withdraw from the future. In the most positive way possible, we are going to work to help shape it.”

    Microsoft said it is willing to reassign employees who object to working on the project, but it is also committed to fulfilling the military contract.

    “All of us who live in this country depend on its strong defense,” said Smith. “The people who serve in our military work for an institution with a vital role and critical history.”

    Permalink to story.

     
  2. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,473   +1,046

    Good. They have more balls than Google does...
     
    ghostf1re, MaXtor, Humza and 7 others like this.
  3. mattsie

    mattsie TS Enthusiast Posts: 57   +32

    Employees: We didn't sign contracts to do military projects

    CEO: lol

    People really don't understand they have the power to do whatever they want. (Yes both)
     
  4. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,533   +3,913

    If they are so drastically opposed to supplying anything to the military, do the honorable thing and quit. Oh? You can't afford to quit? Appears that your honor only goes as far as you paycheck ......
     
  5. firecontrol

    firecontrol TS Rookie

    The way to object is to say, "I QUIT!!!".
     
    EClyde and ForgottenLegion like this.
  6. ForgottenLegion

    ForgottenLegion TS Guru Posts: 423   +423

    Did these employees not know that Microsoft supply the military and governments with Windows?
     
    ghostf1re, Clamyboy74 and EClyde like this.
  7. Lionvibez

    Lionvibez TS Evangelist Posts: 1,477   +644

    Employee's are stupid if they think MS will cancel a 480M contract.

    Those employee's don't generate that much in revenue!

    And as most said if they were actually true to their word they would just quit.
     
    EClyde likes this.
  8. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,096   +3,652

    Given that the average Microsoft employee makes 100K, I don 't think "can't afford to quit" is a problem.

    It's really up to microsoft if the loss of any employees is worth it. Loosing something like a senior engineer can be a serious blow to a company as they are typically assigned important projects as part of a team like the next version of office. That's not someone you want going to competitors.

    Microsoft makes 8.24 billion from it's office suit and other productivity related software so clearly loosing someone who has the knowledge to build that system for another company spells bad news. To me the pay scale is messed up, the senior engineers are the one's how should be making top dollar in a company, not just the CEO.

    In this instance, loosing someone apart of the AR project could see them loosing critical pieces to a future market that could potentially be massive. If Intel's AR prototype is an example of the future, AR has the potential to replace every phone and tablet in addition to it's usability for business applications. Talking about hundreds of billions of dollars at the minimum. In retrospect, even if Microsoft decided to cancel the 350 million dollar contract it's not actually loosing that amount. Those employees would simply be assigned to another project. Saying they are loosing out on that money is like saying they weren't doing anything worthwhile before, in which case Microsoft should have notified HR much earlier.
     
  9. Eldritch

    Eldritch TS Addict Posts: 134   +131

    You are assuming too much and presenting engineers as irreplaceable which is far from truth in current development environment. All projects are broken into small modules and assigned to these middle/lower level engineers and the delay will be minimal unless really large numbers of them abscond from the project which seems unlikely or unless they are lead designer/creater the effect will be esily mitigated for a company with talent pool and hiring power of Microsoft.
    Also its not $350 million as you claim but $479 million. Its even given clealry in the article.
    I am not saying some impact wont be there but you made it sound way more dramatic than it actually is.
     
  10. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 888   +427

    I understand MS workers, develop it for good not evil.
    But better our soldiers have it first than those they will fight.
     
    Clamyboy74 and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  11. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,096   +3,652

    Did you not read my post? I specifically mentioned a senior software engineer, of which you yourself admitted would have an appreciable impact. In fact that was a significant part of my comment, 2 paragraphs in fact. Please read comments before replying to them.
     
  12. Eldritch

    Eldritch TS Addict Posts: 134   +131

    Did you not read my post? I specifically mentioned you are assuming too much and exaggerating things.
    Also,speaking of reading do you still stick to your $350 mil figure or you accept it is $479 mil. Please read articles before commenting on them.
     
  13. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,568   +1,548

    The actual amount of money is largely irrelevant... MS is a trillion dollar company... cancelling a previously agreed-upon contract with the US military, however, is a VERY dangerous move. While it's not quite like the movies, the US military is not an entity you want to f*ck with. And if they cancel that contract, their odds of getting MORE contracts would be severely compromised.
     
    Clamyboy74 likes this.
  14. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 15,075   +4,082

    Tropical fish grow to the size of their container.

    Humans follow a similar path with respect to their income. Someone making 100K a year, isn't likely to be living in a one room apartment in Harlem.

    In fact, in a "boom town" like Redmond, local Realtors aren't likely to not cash in on those fat paychecks.

    Once upon a time, I was tasked with delivering those real estate tax bills to the upper middle class. Those bills started at about $5,000, and went well up from there......way back in the 1990's. Monthly mortgage payments were about $3,000 against $250.000 property values. Now tell me again, how far do you think $100.000 a years goes in the Redmond "fish tank"?

    EDIT: I forgot to mention braces and private schools for the kids, and the his and her's Cadillac "Escalades". And then there's the $2,000 Samsung "smart refrigerator", etc.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2019
  15. netman

    netman TS Evangelist Posts: 350   +112

    "“We made a principled decision that we're not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy,” said Nadella. “We were very transparent about that decision, and we'll continue to have that dialogue [with employees].”"

    Did MS asked employees if this contract is a moral one before signing? Of course not! Did MS employees elected US military? No again! Nadella is politically dumb...

    “All of us who live in this country depend on its strong defense,” said Smith. “The people who serve in our military work for an institution with a vital role and critical history.”

    The above statement is not true unless you replace the word defense with "offense"! US military spends almost a trillion $ on weapons each year to attack other countries...That's offense not defense!
    BTW: The department of Defense used to be called the department of War! Go figure...
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2019
  16. Hexic

    Hexic TS Evangelist Posts: 524   +353

    I'd begin to describe the concepts of the industrial complex, the DoD R&D timetables, the fundamentals of employment, and global politics relating to this issue... But it would end up falling on deaf ears.
     
  17. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 15,075   +4,082

    Good grief, exactly how many quotation marks do you think English requires in order for us to know you didn't say that?
    M$ doesn't have to "ask" its employees anything before taking in a contract. They can either do the work, or be fired. If their ethos requires them to only accept "moral assignments", then they should enter the priesthood. I hear the Catholic church needs, and is hiring new priests these days.
    That's 100% true. Because if you were on the web in China right now, you wouldn't be able to post the spurious crap you just did, without the Communist party sending you on an extended "vacation"
    I found it fascinating that a couple of "Isis brides" were begging to come back to England and the US recently, only to have their citizenship stripped from them. The news of course tapped into "the emotional side of the story", and many people preached forgiveness. I would have shot them on the spot for treason. (It is an offense punishable by death). But Britain took the high road, (the one used by hospitals for patients without medical coverage), and said "send them elsewhere".

    Somehow you've deluded yourself into believing that the freedom to do basically nothing but play video games and spout outrage all day is a "god given right". It's not. Too many people have died, been disfigured, and crippled, bringing those rights to you.

    You're also naive enough to believe that the current state of "world peace", wasn't earned in blood, and that no other prince. potentate, or power of any kind, would not march into anywhere they felt so disposed, and claim those peoples and territories as their own.

    To sum up the human condition as it relates to the world political hierarchy, "the best defense is a strong offense"

    Now why don't you un-bunch your panties, and head on back to Burger King to claim your old job back. (y) (Y)
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2019
  18. Nine2Nine

    Nine2Nine TS Rookie

    This sentiment is the problem. If you think of the work of the US military as "evil" then you don't support them. Not wanting to develop weapons is understandable but trying to force an action that would harm the US Military just because of a personal issue is f*cked up. If that's the issue just quit.
     
  19. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 15,075   +4,082

    You could always take the approach I did Which was to briefly explain world politics with the full expectation that the person you're quoting won't understand or believe a single word of it, but with the hope that others would gain some benefit from it.
     
    Hexic likes this.
  20. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,096   +3,652

    I'd say most humans are greedier then most fish. Yeah, they would definitely have to cut their standard of living or move out of the expensive city they are likely living in.
     
  21. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,096   +3,652

    You've already pointed out that something like a senior engineer would have an impact. At this point you are arguing for the sake of arguing. Pointless.
     
  22. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 15,075   +4,082

    Well maybe not. They could always get a job at Google helping to design a heavily censored internet format for the Chinese Communists

    IMHO, continuing to work on this project at M$, is by far the lesser of two evils. I don't think it's actually evil at all, but then I stopped sucking my thumb and expecting everyone else to take care of me without having to tell me how they do it, years ago.
     
    Hexic and Evernessince like this.
  23. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,096   +3,652

    I've got no problem with it personally. Out of all the military tech they could be doing, helping the military with AR is the most harmless. It's not like they are making smart rifles.
     
  24. Hexic

    Hexic TS Evangelist Posts: 524   +353

    I actually laughed out loud at this. Solid angle there.
     
    Eldritch and captaincranky like this.
  25. trparky

    trparky TS Evangelist Posts: 559   +440

    These snowflakes simply don't understand that the freedoms that they oh so love to say that they have aren't free. Freedom isn't free, it was bought by the blood and tears of a soldier.
     

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