Magic Leap has a new CEO

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Five weeks ago, Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson joined me onstage at Disrupt. Much of the conversation focused on the augmented reality hardware company’s full pivot into enterprise applications with the Magic Leap 2. Johnson, a former Microsoft and Qualcomm exec, spearheaded the shift in business strategy when she joined the company in August 2020.

Just over three years after she joined, however, Johnson is out. In her place, Magic Leap has named Ross Rosenberg to the chief executive job. He previously served as executive at Belden, Inc. and First Solar.

Magic Leap is positioning the transition as marking the completion of its enterprise pivot. Johnson effectively says the move was her key focus at the company, and as such, it’s time to move aside.

“Having accomplished so much of what I set out to do at Magic Leap, I felt the time had come to transition leadership to a new CEO who can guide the company through its next period of growth,” explained Johnson. “I’m incredibly proud of the leadership team we’ve built at Magic Leap and want to sincerely thank all of the employees for their work in helping to successfully reorient the company to the enterprise market.”

At the very least, Magic Leap has a clearer focus than it did in the lead up to 2020. However, both Johnson and Rosenberg have been saddled with a seemingly impossible role: making the extremely well-funded startup profitable.

Technology has never been Magic Leap’s biggest problem, by any stretch. Trying on the Magic Leap 2, it’s hard to argue with the results. Market fit, on the other hand, remains a massive question mark for the firm.

“As companies begin to see true ROI from deploying AR technologies, there is now a clear need state that Magic Leap is capable of solving for,” Ross Rosenberg said in a release. “I am incredibly excited to begin working with the world class team at Magic Leap and want to thank Peggy for her leadership in guiding the company through a critical phase of its development.”

When it was announced over the summer, Apple’s forthcoming Vision Pro appeared to have taken the remaining wind out of Magic Leap’s sails. Johnson, however, told me that the company viewed it as validation of the team’s work. Much like the Vision Pro, Magic Leap’s products have been priced well out of the reach of average consumers — that’s a space Meta is far more comfortable playing in.

Certainly the Vision Pro has raised visibility of spatial computing as a concept, along with AR applications for enterprise. Precisely how large those markets are remains an open question.

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