Panos Panay quits Microsoft. Is the upcoming Surface event in trouble?

Panos Panay introduced the Surface Laptop 5 at the 2022 Surface event, so naturally, we were expecting Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer to present the next-generation of laptops and tablets on Thursday. “What’s on Thursday?” you ask. The 2023 Surface event. But this time, Panay will not be in attendance.

On Sept. 18, Panos Panay shook up the tech landscape after tweeting about his departure from Microsoft. “I’m forever grateful for my time at Microsoft and the amazing people I had the honor to make products with,” Panay said.

As The Verge pointed out, Panay’s exit is sudden and unexpected. After all, just last month, he was tweeting about how “pumped” he is to be in NYC for the Sept. 21 Surface event. According to Windows Central, the Redmond-based tech giant is reportedly unleashing a new Surface Laptop Go 3, Surface Laptop Studio 2, and Surface Go 4. 

A Microsoft Surface Pro 10 may also be in the works, introducing a new variant (an 11-inch tablet) alongside the more familiar 13-inch model. However, there appears to be a lack of consensus from the rumor mill about whether it will make an appearance at the Surface Event. (Windows Central suspects it will get unveiled at Windows vNext – not on Thursday).

Where is Panos headed next?

According to Bloomberg, citing “people familiar with the situation,” Amazon is hiring Panos to replace Dave Limp, the big-box retailer’s former hardware chief. He will be at the helm of the Alexa assistant and Echo smart speaker division. Stepping into Panos’ place will be Microsoft’s Consumer Chief Marketing Officer Yusuf Mehdi.

Panos hopped aboard the Microsoft train in 2004 as a program manager for PC software. In 2021, Panos joined the company’s senior leadership team as the executive vice president, a role that allows Panos to work closely with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Throughout his tenure, Panay led the company through many key products and services, including the Surface line and Windows 11.

According to CNBC, although the Surface laptop line inspired other PC OEMs to follow Microsoft’s playbook (e.g., the 2-in-1 convertible form factor), the devices failed to gain more than a few percentage points after 10 years on the market. Bloomberg also mentioned that Microsoft has “scaled back” Surface operation in recent years, likely due to slow-selling products.

Microsoft Surface family
Credit: Microsoft

What does Panos’ departure mean for the upcoming Surface event? The livestream, poised to broadcast at 1 p.m. ET on Sept. 21, will continue as scheduled. Expect to see a gaggle of Surface devices as well as some AI updates to Bing, Microsoft Edge, and Microsoft 365.

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