Microsoft makes further cuts focused on consumer R&D group

After pulling open roles across its Office and Windows divisions and letting go of a portion of its 180,000-person workforce in July, Microsoft made additional cuts this week. This layoff round was concentrated in its Modern Life Experiences (MLX) group, one of the groups responsible for customer-focused project R&D at the company. According to posts on LinkedIn, the recent layoffs also impacted contracted recruiters across several locations, including Chicago.

It’s unclear how many employees were let go. When reached for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson declined to provide details but didn’t deny that the layoffs had occurred.

Spread across cities, including Vancouver and San Francisco, Microsoft’s MLX group came to be through the company’s 2015 acquisition of Mobile Data Labs, the company behind MileIQ, which at the time was one of the most popular mileage-tracking apps for getting deductions and reimbursements. After spending several years fine-tuning MileIQ under Microsoft, the team expanded its focus, partnering with Microsoft’s Family Safety group to build the first version of the Family Safety apps for iOS and Android.

An executive shuffle in February 2020 put Eran Megiddo, CVP of Windows Product and Education, at the head of both MLX and Microsoft’s Education group. Former Mobile Data Labs CTO Max Wheeler, who joined Microsoft following the acquisition, remained — and still remains — a director of engineering.

In June 2020, the MLX group launched Money in Excel, a template that let Excel users automatically connect bank, credit card, investment, and loan accounts to Excel to receive personalized insights. (Money in Excel is scheduled to be shut down on June 30, 2023, according to a support article.) The team was also responsible for incubating “innovative new customer experiences” for families across Windows, Xbox, mobile, and the web, according to a relevant job posting.

At one time, MLX was part of a broader effort within Microsoft to win back consumers by focusing on “prosumer” products and services, including family-oriented services. In rapid succession, Microsoft introduced a “Kids Mode” for Edge and consumer-centric Teams functionality, as well as personal subscriptions for Microsoft 365. A cross-functional group, Modern Life Planning was charged with working on the pricing, strategy, partnerships and acquisitions to further expand the consumer business.

Whether the MLX group layoffs signal a shift in strategy is an open question. But what is clear is that Microsoft didn’t deliver on expectations in its most recent fiscal quarter, facing the dual headwinds of falling consumer demand and PC production slowdowns.

“As we manage through this period, we will continue to invest in future growth while maintaining intense focus on operational excellence and execution discipline,” said Microsoft CFO Amy Hood during the company’s Q4 2022 earnings in July.

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