Magic Leap has appointed Peggy Johnson, a former Microsoft manager, as the new CEO. Johnson will lead the company on August 1, replacing the current CEO and co-founder of the company, Rony Abovitz. Her appointment is part of the mixed reality company's difficult development towards business customers and away from consumer entertainment and personal computing.
Johnson was executive vice president of business development at Microsoft and head of the M12 venture capital fund. she told The New York Times that she contacted Abovitz about the job after announcing plans to resign in May. It is not yet clear what role Abovitz will play after the transition, but he has previously said that he will deliver "Strategy and Vision" through Magic Leap's board.
Johnson, who headed Qualcomm's Internet services department before joining Microsoft in 2014, said to the Times This mixed reality of the current generation is comparable to the early technology for mobile phones or cloud computing. Mixed or augmented reality technology boomed in the early and mid-20th centuries, but in the past few years, many AR companies have either shifted their focus or closed entirely. Bose most recently abandoned plans for audio-based mixed reality glasses in June, and Google acquired AR startup North for consumers, which discarded plans for North's second generation focal glasses. Magic Leap fired hundreds of employees in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, though it does Times that it has since secured a $ 375 million investment (previously reported as $ 350 million) to maintain operation.
Magic Leap still faces many challenges. The company is currently working on a second generation headset that follows a first generation product that was impressive but limited. And although the pandemic offers new opportunities in areas such as remote work, it has dealt a heavy blow to location-based entertainment companies such as theme parks that were once considered theme parks a promising place for mixed reality. Earlier this year, Magic Leap was also forced to postpone the start of an ambitious storytelling project named Indefinitely The last light after the cancellation of several film festivals in 2020.
However, Microsoft is one of the few great success stories in the industry. Since 2015, it has been transforming its HoloLens headset into a business-oriented hardware product. Johnson's work was not focused on HoloLens, but an existing corporate department gave Microsoft a critical advantage, and Johnson's expertise in this area could help Magic Leap, even if the company's future remains highly uncertain.