Microsoft becomes a premium hardware company

Microsoft becomes a premium hardware company

Just like many of you, I was closely watching the announcements coming from Microsoft during their big #Windows10Devices briefing earlier this week in New York City.

The Microsoft that stood on that Manhattan stage Tuesday morning is very different to the company that initially announced Surface more than three years ago in June of 2012 in Los Angeles.

Obvious changes between now and then include a change of CEOs from Ballmer to Nadella. In 2012 Steven Sinofsky was in charge of Windows and now Terry Myerson runs the Windows hardware and software business as a combined unit.

One person that was a very visible part of the initial reveal of Surface in 2012 was Panos Panay. At that time he led the team who created Surface and this past Tuesday in New York City he owned the stage at the Skylight at Moynihan Station and the attention of Microsoft watchers around the world.

It is the common thread of Panos Panay, who is now in charge of hardware devices for all of Microsoft, who has influenced the journey from the much maligned Surface RT to Surface Book.

I am watching the June 2012 announcement of Surface RT and Surface Pro as I prepare this article – very painful to watch compared to this past week’s event. The single source of passion and knowledge on that stage back then was Panos. The first words he said on that stage in Los Angeles was that he was humbled to be representing the team back in Redmond who built the initial Surface devices.

On Tuesday in New York City he used the word blessed when he described how he felt in leading the entire hardware team as he described their passion, creativity and desire to bring the best possible experiences to users.

I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Panos on Tuesday evening at the Microsoft #Windows10Devices Fan Party. I simply complimented him on the event and the new devices but his first words to me were to acknowledge his team back in Redmond who did all the work.  Just like he had done three years earlier when getting ready to discuss the brand new Surface.

I have no doubt that the continued presence of Panos Panay from those early days is a key element of the progress of Surface and Microsoft’s movement as they have become a premium device company.  It also has taken the failure of Surface RT and the improvements over the subsequent generations of Surface to bring Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book to market.

Just to be clear – Microsoft is not building these devices to overtake the market or to compete with their OEM partners. They are creating this hardware and the experiences around it to highlight the possibilities that are available with Windows 10. They are showing their hardware partners exactly what is possible and those companies and others are following Microsoft’s lead in this area of design, functionality and usability.

As we saw this week – Surface Pro 4, Surface Book, Lumia 950/950 XL and Microsoft Band 2 are premium products and they arrive with a premium price tag. Microsoft is making the move into this market because they now have a proven track record with Surface, a $3.5-billion-dollar business per year, and that is translating to other hardware lines as well.

I personally can not wait to see how Panos and his team influence the design of the next generation of Windows 10 Mobile devices.

The journey should continue to be well worth watching.

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