Earlier this week, we learned that Panos Panay, who long led Microsoft's Surface hardware division, will depart the company. The news took us by surprise for several reasons. For starters, Panay has been the face of the Surface brand since its inception and is always on hand to announce new products and talks passionately about the work that goes into each product's development. Secondly, Panay was scheduled to be on stage today at Microsoft's event announcing the next generation of Surface hardware.
We later learned that Panay accepted a position at Amazon to lead the team responsible for Echo, Kindle, and Fire hardware, replacing Dave Limp. Today, we're finally learning the impetus for Panay's decision to leave Microsoft courtesy of Business Insider. While the announcement was sudden to those in the tech world, sources close to Panay say he has been plotting a move to Amazon for some time.
According to these same sources, Microsoft made "significant cuts" to the budget allotted to the Surface division and canceled next-generation Surface Headphones (the headphones are currently in their second generation). Microsoft is instead shifting some of the funds previously earmarked for Surface to its artificial intelligence endeavors.
Panay's extreme attention to detail for the end-to-end process also reportedly ruffled some feathers. While some labeled him a "diva," Panay's overall reputation at the company during his two-decade tenure has been generally well-received.
"Thank you, Panos, for your impact on our products, culture, company, and industry over the past two decades," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement regarding Panay's decision to leave the company. "I'm grateful for your leadership, support, and all you've done for Microsoft and our customers and partners."
As the head of the Windows and Surface business at Microsoft, his role will be transferred to Yusuf Mehdi, who served as Corporate VP and Consumer Chief Marketing Officer. Mehdi will be joined by Mikhail Parakhin, Shilpa Ranganathan, and Pavan Davuluri in pushing forward a new era of Windows, hardware, and AI products.
It will be interesting to see how Panay's dedication to producing premium customer experiences will translate to his new role as SVP of Devices and Services at Amazon. Amazon's Echo, Fire and Kindle devices are known for providing a lot of bang for the buck, but we doubt many people would call them premium devices.
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Brandon Hill is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware. He has written about PC and Mac tech since the late 1990s with bylines at AnandTech, DailyTech, and Hot Hardware. When he is not consuming copious amounts of tech news, he can be found enjoying the NC mountains or the beach with his wife and two sons.