Panos Panay is the betting type. You can see the evidence in Microsoft’s Building 37, where two $1 bills stick out from beneath a Surface tablet sitting on a shelf.
When I ask Panay about the dollars during a recent visit to Microsoft, he says it was a wager he made a few years back on a specific product. I ask if it was a bet on Surface RT, the very first Surface product Microsoft made, and he seems genuinely surprised. “I would have lost that bet, and I’m going to win this one,” he says. “It’s about a product that’s in market right now.” And that’s all he’ll volunteer.
Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, isn’t there to talk about the ghosts of Surface’s past, or even the present. Panay wants to talk about his next big bet in the Surface product lineup: the brand-new Surface Go. But to call it “big” would be a misnomer, because the Surface Go was designed to disappear.
I have to hand it to the people at Microsoft. They won’t give up on Surface. You cannot give up in the hardware game when you have billions of dollars in your pockets already.
I’ve thought Panos Panay is particularly adorable ever since he introduced the Surface Book back in 2015. Look at him, the little-big engine that could. You get excited at your show-and-tell day at school! Yeah!
Panos is clearly the right guy for the job, but the real question is whether Surface is the right hardware for the job. I can’t find Microsoft having any meaningful representation on tablet marketshare stats for 2018 (or 2017 or 2016).
But hey, what do I know? If Apple starts screwing up iPads like they’re currently screwing up their MacBook Pros, maybe Microsoft has a shot at getting in the race (just kidding, they don’t).