Many have argued that Windows has been severely underrepresented at Microsoft over the last couple of years. However, with Microsoft's Chief Product Officer, Panos Panay, now taking charge of the Windows client, that may soon begin to change.
Microsoft is now combining the Windows UX (user experience) and Surface teams under one large team lead by Panay, a formalization of the teamwork that has been ongoing between Windows and Surface since as far back as Windows 8.
This new Windows + Devices team will hopefully enable collaboration between software and hardware on a level similar to that found at Apple. Historically, Microsoft's hardware teams have built its hardware around Windows, and not the other way around. That means Surface devices have been under the mercy of Windows when it comes to new device experiences, as Microsoft's hardware teams can only build devices that match the capabilities of the Windows user experience.
With Windows and Surface now under the same roof, Microsoft can begin to innovate in both directions. Instead of hardware ideas being stifled by what Windows is doing, Microsoft can build new Windows experiences and features around new hardware ideas it may have. You can already see the results of this kind of collaboration by looking no further than Windows 10X and the Surface Neo. Now that Panay is in charge, innovation in this area can be turned up to 11.
Better for the PC market?
I've always found it rather ironic that Microsoft's best selling Surface is a tablet, which happens to run an OS that doesn't have a very good tablet experience. Now that Panay is in charge of the Windows UX, perhaps we'll see Microsoft take another stab at building a better experience for Windows tablets, something that can compete with the iPad and its fluid tablet OS.
A consistent Windows UI that's modern, fluid, and minimalist would be a significant first step
I think that putting Panay in charge of Windows client is nothing but a good thing. It allows for control from the top down when it comes to building hardware and software, which is how it should've always been since the beginning. I do wonder if OEMs will raise an eyebrow at this news, however. I assume any new changes and features that are made to Windows as a result of hardware innovation will be applicable to OEMs as well.
It would be fascinating to see Microsoft take Windows down a path where Surface hardware has access to exclusive Windows features and capabilities. This would be terrible for Microsoft's partner relationships, which is why I don't think it will ever happen, but it'd be interesting nonetheless. Just like how phone makers can adopt Android, but Google reserves some of the best bits of Android for its own Pixel devices. It works for them.
I don't expect Panay's reign over Windows client to result in a renewed interest in building consumer features like Paint 3D. I do hope, however, that it results in a more clear and consistent Windows UI and experience that knows what it's here to do; enable productivity no matter the person. A consistent Windows UI that's modern, fluid, and minimalist would be a significant first step towards that goal.
It's worth noting that even with Panay taking the lead on Windows client, Windows itself still isn't represented on the senior leadership team. I don't see this as a problem, as Windows is a mature product that doesn't need to be kept an eye on at the very top. Windows as a product is still represented under Azure here, which I don't expect will change anytime soon.
What are your thoughts on this new Windows + Devices team lead by Panos Panay? Let us know in the comments.