Windows and Surface Boss Panos Panay Leaving Microsoft, Reportedly Joining Amazon

Panos Panay on stage with a Microsoft logo behind him.
(Image credit: David Becker/Getty Images)

Panos Panay, the longtime leader of Microsoft's Surface hardware and the more recent chief of the Windows operating system announced that he is leaving the company.

"After 19 incredible years at Microsoft, I've decided to turn the page and write the next chapter," Panay wrote on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter. "I’m forever grateful for my time at Microsoft and the amazing people I had the honor to make products with."

Bloomberg reports that Panay is being hired by Amazon to run the team that builds the Alexa voice assistant, Echo smart speakers, Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets and streaming sticks. Neither Microsoft nor Amazon commented on the report. He would replace Dave Limp, the Amazon hardware lead who announced that he would retire this year.

Panay started his career at Microsoft as a program manager for PC hardware in 2004, eventually leading Surface. In a 2020 re-organization, Windows also reported into Panay, including the development of Windows 11. In 2021, Panay, as chief product officer, became part of Microsoft's senior leadership team with a direct line to CEO Satya Nadella.

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In an email to employees penned by Rajesh Jha, vice president of experience and devices, it was announced that Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president and consumer chief marketing officer, will "take on the responsibility of leading the Windows and Surface businesses with our OEM and Retail partners."

Panay's responsibilities will be spit among multiple people. Beyond Mehdi, Microsoft will have Mikhail Parakhin lead a new "Windows and Web Experiences" team with longtime leaders like CVP Shilpa Ranganathan on board. A separate team, led by Pavan Davuluri, a corporate vice president and engineer in the Windows and Devices organization, will "Build silicon, systems and devices that span Windows, client and cloud for an AI world."

"Thank you, Panos, for your impact on our products, culture, company, and industry over the past two decades," Nadella wrote in a statement sent to the press. "I’m grateful for your leadership, support, and all you’ve done for Microsoft and our customers and partners. As Rajesh stated, we remain steadfast and convicted in our strategy and Yusuf Mehdi will take lead on our Windows and Surface businesses and products externally."

"Our commitment to Surface and M[ixed] R[eality] remains unchanged," the note adds.

Panay was the face of Surface, known for being pumped to introduce new devices. But this change seems surprising, because Panay was also "pumped" to be at this Thursday's Microsoft event in New York City — he had posted about it on X back in August. His absence from the event which he had already confirmed to attend will be noticeable.

"Microsoft Chairman and CEO, Satya Nadella, and other executives from product groups like Microsoft 365, Surface, Windows, Bing and more -- including Yusuf Mehdi -- will be in attendance on Sept. 21," a Microsoft spokesperson told Tom's Hardware. Ironically enough, Amazon has its own event this week, on Wednesday, at its Arlington, Virginia offices.

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Microsoft's Thursday event is expected to be a mix of Surface devices and new demonstrations of AI in Windows and in Bing. Microsoft is rumored to be working on a version of Windows with more AI features called Windows 12, which may come out as soon as 2024. Needless to say, it's a turbulent time for the head of Windows to be stepping down.


Here's the full email that Microsoft sent out to employees today which features some other changes being made as a result of Panay's departure:

Team,  

After nearly 20 years at the company, Panos Panay has decided to leave Microsoft. Panos has had an incredible impact on our products and culture as well as the broader devices ecosystem. Under Panos’ leadership, the team created the iconic Surface brand with loved products. More recently, as the leader of Windows, the team has brought amazing services and experiences to hundreds of millions with Windows 11 on innovative devices including those from our OEM partners. He will be missed, and I am personally very grateful for his many contributions over the years. Please join me in wishing him well. 

Moving forward, we will double down on our strategy. These changes will be effective immediately with Panos’ help in the transition.

- Build silicon, systems and devices that span Windows, client and cloud for an AI world. This team will be led by 
Pavan Davuluri, who will report directly to me. Brett Ostrum, Nino Storniolo, Linda Averett, Ken Pan, Ralf Groene, Aidan Marcuss, Carlos Picoto, Stevie Bathiche, Robin Seiler, Ruben Caballero and Anuj Gosalia will move to report to Pavan with their teams intact. Windows planning and release management will continue to be in this team. Our commitment to Surface and MR remains unchanged. 

- Build experiences that blend web, services and Windows for an AI world. To this end, 
Shilpa Ranganathan, Jeff Johnson and Ali Akgun will directly report to Mikhail Parakhin and form a new Windows and Web Experiences Team, moving with their teams intact. 

-
Yusuf Mehdi will take on the responsibility of leading the Windows and Surface businesses with our OEM and Retail partners. 

In addition, Charles Simonyi, Terri Chudzik and Erin Kolb will join the E+D management teams and Ralf Groene and Mike Davidson will work together on the best alignment on design teams.  

We will set up time for an AMA in the coming days to answer questions. Let’s continue to stay focused on executing on our existing plans. Thank you for all that you do, and the impact that you have for our customers and partners.  

Best, 

Rajesh 

Updated with confirmation that Panay will not attend the September 21 Microsoft event in New York City and a report from Bloomberg that Amazon is hiring Panay.

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon @FreedmanAE.mastodon.social.

  • Elusive Ruse
    Can we now get to buy Windows as a product without us being the commodity?
    Reply
  • GenericUser
    Elusive Ruse said:
    Can we now get to buy Windows as a product without us being the commodity?
    I wish but I doubt it. Not commodifying your "customers" is just leaving money on the table as far as business sense goes. If anything I expect to see only more of it from businesses in general as time goes on.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Elusive Ruse said:
    Can we now get to buy Windows as a product without us being the commodity?
    "Now"?

    We never could. It has always been licensed software.
    Reply
  • ekio
    I hope the new leadership will finally bother modernizing the rest of the system UI/UX.
    I am so over dealing with hundreds of system windows from XP era that are outdated, not resizable, not fitting the latest theme etc…
    Reply
  • Giroro
    USAFRet said:
    "Now"?

    We never could. It has always been licensed software.
    Licensed software is fine.
    Constant usage tracking, online monitoring, and ad-monetization of people's personal computers is the problem. Microsoft acting like a purchase of a software license entitles them to full ownership of a customer's hardware and data, is the problem.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    Microsoft doesn't assign their best and brightest to work on Windows, so this guy has probably been on the way out for at least a couple years.
    Reply
  • Psiboy69
    Admin said:
    Panos Panay, the longtime leader of Microsoft's Surface hardware and the more recent chief of the Windows operating system announced that he is leaving the company.

    Windows and Surface Boss Panos Panay is Leaving Microsoft : Read more
    Good, Maybe the next version of windows won't be as crap as 11 and return to the focus on productivity instead of pretty trash?
    Reply
  • tamalero
    Psiboy69 said:
    Good, Maybe the next version of windows won't be as crap as 11 and return to the focus on productivity instead of pretty trash?
    if the tick tock of experience with Windows continue.. Windows 12 will be a winner.
    Microsoft always f..s some version every now and then by trying too hard to be something Windows never is.
    In this case.. "yet another apple clone" with Windows 11.
    Reply
  • Sippincider
    Psiboy69 said:
    Good, Maybe the next version of windows won't be as crap as 11 and return to the focus on productivity instead of pretty trash?

    With a marketing officer in charge of it??

    Expect a whole new era of decision-by-PowerPoint to drive Windows (we can't wait for their next assault on the Start menu). To their credit we'll likely see some drop-dead beautiful desktops. But Windows 3 barnacles will always be just a couple clicks away.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    So the person in charge of Surface, arguably the worst Windows machine you can get due to the high price vs the competition, no dGPU, poor battery life, and very incremental changes per year (resulting in generally poor reviews fom TH/TomsGuide and other reviewers), is going to take over the Amazon Fire division, which produces the worst tablets (high price for bad specs, no Google services or store) and the worst streaming products with bare minimum memory and storage.

    Well, I can see the Surface line maybe finally getting better, but I don't see Amazon devices, especially the Fire line, getting a badly needed jolt of decency, sadly.
    Reply