What’s next for Windows and Surface without Panos Panay?

Panos Panay has always been the force behind Microsoft’s Surface line. He helped bring Surface to life as a secret project over 10 years ago. He demonstrated the new devices on stage at events, showed up at malls to promote Surface hardware, and led Microsoft’s Surface tablets to success in the years that followed.

Now he’s leaving in a surprise departure announced just days before Microsoft’s next big Surface event. Panay will no longer be at the Microsoft show on Thursday but will remain with the company for a few more weeks as part of a transition process. He has reportedly joined Amazon to replace Dave Limp and lead Amazon’s Echo and Alexa campaign. Amazon is also hosting its own hardware event on Wednesday.

Panay has spent the last decade focusing largely on Surface devices after Microsoft first developed its tablet as a rival to Apple’s Windows-based iPad. The Surface Pro tablet, which began as a string-and-plastic concept, had a lasting influence on Windows laptops, pushing Microsoft’s OEM partners and rivals to focus on quality and 2-in-1 devices . The success of the line landed Panay as Microsoft’s chief product officer.

The Surface Pro has had a lasting effect on Windows laptops.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

With Panay’s surprise resignation, Microsoft’s event in New York will now offer a first look at the future of Windows and Surface under new leadership. Microsoft is expected to unveil three new Surface devices, but will also focus on AI-based features for Surface, Windows, Office, Bing, and more.

Yusuf Mehdi, head of consumer marketing at Microsoft, will now assume responsibility for leading Windows and Surface businesses and products externally. Importantly, Mehdi’s job title did not change with Panay’s departure, so Microsoft no longer has a product manager.

With no clear replacement for Panay’s unique role at Microsoft, it appears Mehdi will assume his responsibilities as the main face of Windows and Surface devices. While Panay is a product manufacturer, Mehdi has, more often than not, been the marketing lead for Microsoft’s various consumer efforts.

He first joined Microsoft in 1992, working on product management for Internet Explorer and Windows before helping lead Microsoft’s entry into search with Bing. His career at Microsoft spanned three different CEOs – Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Satya Nadella – and a variety of different product launches. He was involved in Surface, the launch of Windows 10 and the HoloLens headset.

Yusuf Mehdi is no stranger to consumers.
Image: Stephen Brashear / Invision

Mehdi was also at the center of Microsoft’s failed TV campaign for Xbox and the launch of the Xbox One console. Later, he was in charge of a “modern living” initiative to try to win back consumers that Microsoft had let down, following the company’s decisions to remove its Groove Music service, discontinue Kinect, abandon your Microsoft Band fitness device and even stop your activity. Windows Phone. Microsoft ultimately laid off its Modern Living team during budget cuts last year.

Microsoft shares some of Panay’s other responsibilities. Pavan Davuluri, who leads a team focused on silicon, Windows and cloud systems and devices, will now report directly to Rajesh Jha, Microsoft’s vice president of experience and devices. This team includes key Surface talents such as Ralf Groene, Stevie Bathiche and Robin Seiler. Pavan will also assume responsibility for Windows release planning and management.

Interestingly, Microsoft is also building a new “Windows and Web Experiences” team. Microsoft often forms these types of teams when it wants to tackle a particular new area for Windows, and this time it’s building AI-based web services for Windows. We’ve already seen Microsoft move towards web features in Windows 11, with staples like the search interface dynamically updating from the web, a widget system, and more. So expect to see a lot more in the future.

Mikhail Parakhin, who has focused on Bing Chat in recent months, leads this new experiences team, and it will include executives with experience in product management, engineering, and Microsoft’s cross-device Android work.

Microsoft is about to launch its Windows Copilot.
Image: Microsoft

These Windows and Surface leaders will now direct Microsoft’s operating system and hardware towards AI. This is what Microsoft wants people to be excited about right now and something we’ll likely see a lot of at the company’s event on Thursday. Microsoft is increasingly trying to use Windows as a vehicle for its AI efforts or to try to bring Bing and Edge to consumers and businesses.

I interviewed key members of Surface last year for an article about 10 years of Surface, and it was clear from talking to them that AI was going to have a big impact on Windows and Surface over the next decade. come. There have been persistent rumors that the company was building its own Arm chips for servers and Surface PCs, and even rival AI chips to avoid costly dependence on Nvidia.

“AI is going to reinvent the way you do everything in Windows,” Panay said earlier this year. Panay will no longer be at Microsoft to lead this reinvention of how you use Windows. But his resignation didn’t signal a change in strategy or direction for Windows at Microsoft, from what I can tell.

The Surface Smart Camera is one of the best examples of Microsoft’s use of AI.
Image: Microsoft

The current question is how Microsoft continues to innovate on the hardware side. Panay has always been a fan of devices, having led the development of Surface Pro which saw companies like Apple, Dell and Asus produce their own Surface-like devices. But Microsoft announced changes to its hardware portfolio earlier this year, amid layoffs. Is there still room for Surface to create innovative laptop and tablet designs like we’ve seen over the past decade, or is Microsoft’s push for AI eclipsing- Are there risky bets on hardware?

Microsoft has been rumored to have abandoned plans for a dual-screen Surface Duo 3, years after effectively canceling its Windows-based dual-screen Surface Neo device. It’s unclear what the future holds for Microsoft’s Android efforts. The original Surface Duo just reached the end of its life with just two Android version updates. Microsoft’s mice, keyboards and webcams have also been discontinued in favor of Surface accessories.

Microsoft also invested heavily in Windows 11 during the pandemic and boom in PC sales, but Surface and device revenues have taken a hit this year as PC shipments saw sharp declines. Before the PC pandemic boom, Nadella also envisioned a future beyond Windows, iOS, and Android. He joked in January 2020 that Windows might be called “Azure Edge” in the future to make it clear that cloud services are Microsoft’s largest hardware business.

Will we continue to see Microsoft boldly experiment with Surface hardware like the canceled Neo?
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

During the FTC vs. Microsoft During the hearing, we heard that Microsoft wants to move Windows entirely to the cloud on the consumer side, which it is increasingly doing on the business side with Windows 365. The formation of a new Windows team focused on the web suggests that this effort is very much underway. movement.

Perhaps this uncertainty around the PC sector after a strong sales boom has led Panay to simply want to build devices rather than take on the complicated task of running Windows and preparing it for AI and a future in the cloud.

All of this will be a priority when looking at how Microsoft discusses Windows and Surface at its event on Thursday. We’re entering a new era of AI for Windows and Microsoft’s many services, and it will be key to see exactly how Surface plays its role without one of its key inventors at the helm.


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