Panos Panay, the charismatic chief product officer at Microsoft responsible for Windows development and the Surface line, is leaving the tech giant. Rajesh Jha, Microsoft’s vice president of experience and devices, announced Panay’s departure to employees, stating, “After nearly 20 years at the company, Panos Panay has decided to leave Microsoft.”
A Sudden Goodbye
The news comes as a surprise, as just last month Panay expressed enthusiasm for Microsoft’s upcoming special event on September 21st, centered on new Surface products and AI innovations. However, he will no longer be part of the event, confirmed by Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw.
A Storied Career at Microsoft
Since joining the company in 2004, Panay rose through the ranks, ultimately becoming the chief product officer in 2018 and being promoted to executive vice president in 2021. Under his leadership, Panay oversaw the development of Windows 11 and the emergence of the Surface line as a key player in the hardware market.
After 19 incredible years at Microsoft, I've decided to turn the page and write the next chapter. I’m forever grateful for my time at Microsoft and the amazing people I had the honor to make products with.
— Panos Panay (@panos_panay) September 18, 2023
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Panay said he’s decided to “turn the page and write the next chapter,” adding that he’s “forever grateful for my time at Microsoft and the amazing people I had the honor to make products with.”
Yusuf Mehdi to Take the Helm
Yusuf Mehdi, previously the corporate vice president of modern life, search, and devices, will assume Panay’s role in leading the Windows and Surface sectors, particularly in dealings with Microsoft’s OEM and external partners. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, thanked Panay for his contributions, stating that the company remains “steadfast and convicted in our strategy.”
Assessing the Surface Division’s Performance
Under Panay’s leadership, the Surface division saw significant growth. According to Microsoft’s earnings reports, revenue for the division rose from $4.6 billion in FY 2018 to $7.7 billion in FY 2021. However, the past year showed mixed results, with some quarters seeing growth and others a decline.
Challenges such as supply chain constraints and increased competition have made an impact, but the division has also launched innovative products that have been well-received, balancing out the performance.
The Uncertain Future of Surface Duo
Panay’s departure comes at a time when questions linger over the future of the Surface Duo line, Microsoft’s dual-screen foldable smartphones. The series has faced challenges including poor sales, lackluster reviews, and a lack of software updates, leading to speculation that Microsoft might be shifting its focus away from this ambitious project.
Panay’s departure is significant for Microsoft, a company doubling down on AI features in Windows 11 and rumored to be launching Windows 12 next year. As one of the main faces of Microsoft, Panay’s exit will undoubtedly be felt across the tech industry. Yusuf Mehdi has big shoes to fill, but if Microsoft’s past performance is any indication, the company is well-poised to navigate this new chapter.
The leadership change serves as a moment of reflection for the tech giant, offering an opportunity to reassess strategies and renew commitments. It remains to be seen how this executive shuffle will impact Microsoft’s future endeavors, but one thing is certain: Panos Panay leaves behind a legacy of innovation and growth that will not be easily forgotten.
See the full internal email below:
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.
Update: Bloomberg reports Pannay is heading to Amazon to run the division responsible for Alexa and the Echo smart speakers. This follows Dave Limp, the longtime Amazon hardware chief, announcing his retirement by the end of this year.