Panos Panay has always been the force behind Microsoft’s Surface line. He helped bring Surface to life as a secret project more than 10 years ago. He’s presented the new devices onstage at events, showed up at malls to promote Surface hardware, and has steered Microsoft’s Surface tablets to success in the years since.
Now, he’s leaving in a surprise departure announced just days before Microsoft’s next big Surface event. Panay will no longer be presenting at Microsoft’s showcase on Thursday but will remain at the company for another couple of weeks as part of a transition process. He’s reportedly joining Amazon to replace Dave Limp and lead Amazon’s Echo and Alexa push. Amazon is also holding its own hardware event on Wednesday.
This sure is an odd and rather abrupt departure – only a few days before Panay was supposed to be present Microsoft’s Surface event – and I wonder what the full story is, and if we’ll ever get to hear it.
I have mixed feelings about Panay’s tenure at Microsoft. As far as hardware goes, Surface devices are quite nice and pleasant, albeit often a tad bit out of date for the prices Microsoft is asking. Worse yet, Microsoft and Panay, despite halfhearted attempts, completely missed the boat on ARM, and Windows is still floundering there due to both poor ARM hardware (compared to Apple’s offerings) and Windows on ARM being an afterthought.
As far as software goes – well, Windows is in a worse state than it’s ever been in. It’s the clown car of operating systems, and two decades of layering one user interface and API above another has turned the operating system into a layer cake that makes Hisarlik seem like a thin sheet of single-ply toilet paper. The ways in which Microsoft has jerked Windows from left to right are numerous, and Panay was at the head of it all for a long time.
Maybe Microsoft’s relentless push for shoving AI down Windows’ users’ throats as the straw that broke Panay’s back?