Microsoft’s Surface shakeup explains a lot about yesterday's event

Microsoft Surface devices
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft’s Surface lineup stretches from premium headsets to enormous all-in-one workstation tablets like the Surface Studio 2+. It’s been a playground for Microsoft to unleash some of its wilder concepts onto the market like the Surface Duo 2, while still maintaining a safe and steady release cycle with products like the Surface Go, Surface Laptop Go, and Surface Laptop Studio.

The Surface lineup was where weird and quirky went to sink or swim, and some of the results were quite surprising. So, when Surface extoller and Chief Product Officer Panos Panay abruptly left his post a few days ago, we knew something was amiss.

Tack on the fact that this year’s Surface event seemed so narrow in its hardware focus and you start to get a more apparent answer on something we’ve been asking ourselves all week: what does this mean for Surface? 

Microsoft trims the fat on the Surface lineup

According to Windows Central’s Zac Bowden, sources have revealed that much of Panay’s frustrations came from Microsoft’s sudden shift toward AI and how that affected the Surface lineup.

Microsoft has reportedly tightened the reigns on the Surface family, deciding to spend elsewhere in order to further its generative AI goals. As a result, it placed some of its more exciting and experimental pieces of hardware on the backburner indefinitely to focus on its more mainstream, guaranteed money makers.

Microsoft Surface family

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Frankly, it’s about time

While I’m sad to see Microsoft shut down some of its more inventive products, it’s about time the Surface lineup cut the fat. If for no other reason than its awkward naming convention.

It’s bad enough trying to stay mentally acute enough to remember which product is a Go or a Pro without realizing one of the next Surface releases will be the Surface Pro 10, which is a completely separate product from the Surface Pro X.

For all of Panay’s prowess in ensuring that the Surface lineup got the premium white glove treatment in terms of design, the ball was dropped when it came to gifting them names that won’t cause a cluster migraine in anyone trying to keep track of them all.

According to Bowden’s sources, the Surface lineup will now be trimmed down to its core devices: the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, Surface Laptop Go, Surface Laptop Studio, Surface Hub, and Surface Go. That still hurts both my eyes and brain to type, but progress is progress and I’ll take my W’s where I can get them.

Outlook

Should the information revealed to Bowden prove accurate, this places the Surface Laptop SE 2, Surface Headphones, Surface Duo, Surface Studio, and Surface Book on indefinite hiatus.

From what we saw during today's event, with Microsoft's more restrained approach toward hardware while pushing AI hard, I'd put money on Bowden's information being accurate.

Considering Panay’s desire to manufacture more unique and experimental consumer tech products, there’s no wonder he decided to part ways with Microsoft following such a sudden shift in the Surface lineup’s direction going forward.

However, Microsoft’s loss is seemingly Amazon’s gain as Bloomberg has reported that the former Chief Product Officer has been snatched up by the Bezos-owned company to work on its own hardware lineups including Kindle and Alexa devices. 

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Rael Hornby
Content Editor

Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.