It’s Microsoft reorg day today, and the biggest changes involve Surface chief Panos Panay taking over Windows client and hardware. ZDNet reports that the previously separate Windows Experience (client) and hardware teams will now be combined into a single group that will be known as Windows + Devices. Chief product officer Panos Panay will take charge of this newly formed unit, in a clear sign that Microsoft is serious about more closely aligning its software and hardware for Surface and beyond.
Joe Belfiore, who was running Windows Experience, is now moving over to the Office side of Microsoft later this year. Belfiore has spent the majority of his time at Microsoft on the Windows side, from working on Windows 95, the Windows XP user interface, Windows Media Center, and, of course, Windows Phone. Belfiore will be helping lead the Office Experience Group, which looks after the core Office apps. He will also reportedly continue to lead the Essential Products Inclusive Community, which includes Edge and Microsoft’s related mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Microsoft previously aligned the core parts of the Windows platform team with its AI platform and Azure cloud platform teams nearly two years ago, and these latest changes don’t change that. Microsoft has been attempting to better integrate Windows and Surface hardware, especially for products like the Surface Hub 2S and its upcoming Surface Neo dual-screen device. Panay’s move appears to be the next step in that work, but he won’t be taking a place on Microsoft’s senior leadership team. He will still report into Rajesh Jha, who heads up the Experiences and Devices unit at Microsoft.
ZDNet also reveals that Panay may have been considering a new role inside or outside of Microsoft that could have involved a leave of absence or even him joining Apple. If that’s accurate, then such a move would certainly prompt Microsoft to try to keep its Surface chief from joining a rival like Apple. Here’s part of Panay’s internal memo to the Windows + Devices team:
“Personally I’m very excited to lead the Windows Client for Microsoft, which will help us streamline our decision-making processes, be clear on our priorities, and deliver the best end user experiences from silicon through operating systems across all Microsoft apps and service connected devices (OEMs and Surface). We believe this will make the Windows Client experience better for the entire PC ecosystem. Designing hardware and software together will enable us to do a better job on our long term Windows bets (dual screen, silicon diversity, connectivity, app platform, etc.) and having a single point of Windows Client Experience leadership driving consistent priorities and resourcing across all of Windows client will help all of us accelerate innovation and improve execution. This is such an amazing time and opportunity to bring more energy to Windows and our customers using Windows. It won’t be easy, but extending our growth will be key for our company strategy.”
Update, February 5th 1:20PM ET: Article updated with Panos Panay’s internal memo to the Windows + Devices team.