Microsoft’s Surface device lineup is bigger than ever. On June 15, the company launched the Surface Pro, the fifth iteration of its now famous 2-in-1 tablet, as well as a strangely familiar device: the Surface Laptop. They join the Surface Book, a laptop that also snaps apart to be a tablet, and the Surface Studio, a giant, 28-inch desktop built around touch. But what is Microsoft’s overall direction here, as well as its goals for the Surface Laptop and Pro? To find out, we talked to the man himself: Panos Panay.
Panay is in charge of all hardware at Microsoft, including Surface devices, accessories like mice and keyboards, and even the brand-new Xbox One X. He led the charge when Microsoft began working on the first Surface, which hit shelves half a decade ago, and isn’t one to shy away from the struggles the Surface division faced in its first few years. He’s also known as a very passionate advocate of Microsoft products, and a perfectionist when it comes to product construction.
We saw that passion firsthand as Panay joined us in the Digital Trends office in New York City for an impromptu show-and-tell. Answering questions along the way, he gave us a detailed look at the design points and reasoning behind the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, as well as Microsoft’s overall strategy toward its Surface line.
“When we first built [Surface], it was just going to be a stage for Windows,” Panay told Digital Trends, reflecting on the last five years. “Now, it’s a stage for all the software, it’s about change, it’s about bringing those magical experiences to people. We’re now in a place where this hardware really does start to disappear. You have instant on. You have long battery life. You have the beauty of Windows 10 in the product, the beauty of Office in the product — tuned for Skype. So you can see how, over time, in the generations, it has changed, and the focus has been around experiences and how we’re going to bring software to life.”
For Panay, 2017 is when the Surface lineup is really coming together. He explained how proud he is of Microsoft’s varied lineup, which you can now see at retailers like Best Buy.
“This is kind of a dream of mine,” explained Panay. “You have these three different “Who are you? What do you do? What do you believe in?” devices, so now when somebody walks in [to a store, they] have that choice.”
“We have the most versatile laptop on the planet — and this is the one you can use anywhere, anytime, — you don’t need a tablet or a laptop, this is the one,” Panay said. “But if you’re just a laptop user who wants the classic form factor, and you wanted something personal and beautiful, now we have that choice, too … and then you have the Book, so you have the most performant laptop.”