Microsoft Surface chief Panos Panay is taking over a big part of Windows

Key Points
  • Panos Panay isn't taking charge of all of Windows; part of it remains under another executive. 
  • The Surface device line has gradually expanded in recent years under Panay.
Microsoft hardware chief Panos Panay introduces new products at a press event on October 2, 2018.
CNBC | Todd Haselton

The person in charge of Microsoft's Surface line of PCs is reportedly taking charge of the Windows technology people see when they use those Surfaces.

Panos Panay, the company's chief product officer, who has been the face of the Surface for the past several years, is getting responsibility for Windows client -- the design and functionality that users see -- reporting to executive VP Rajesh Jha, as part of a broader reorg in that group. The core underlying technology is staying under executive VP Jason Zander.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the moves after ZDNet reported the news on Wednesday.

The shake-up assigns the Windows user experience to one of Microsoft's most colorful figures, a reflection of the fact that Windows remains a crucial part of Microsoft's finances. Surface is smaller than Dell and HP in the PC market; devices represent about 6% of Microsoft's overall revenue. Windows, by contrast, delivers 15% of the company's total revenue.

Panay is essentially taking over for Joe Befiore, who will move to the Office group after taking a sabbatical. 

Windows still doesn't have a sole representative in Microsoft's circle of top executives. It hasn't since Terry Myerson, formerly head of the company's Windows and Devices Group, left in 2018. The group was split in two, and the core engineering for Windows now sits in Zander's organization, alongside Microsoft's Azure cloud. The other piece went under Jha, head of Microsoft's Experiences and Devices organization.

Each fall Panay captures attention for his flourishes as he reveals new devices at Microsoft hardware events. "If this was a symphony, it'd be missing one instrument," he said before unveiling the forthcoming Surface Duo smartphone running Google's Android operating system.

Panay joined Microsoft in 2004 and has worked on hardware at the company for more than a decade. He spoke at the 2012 event where then-CEO Steve Ballmer showed off the original Surface convertible tablet.

"This was built as a stage for Windows 8," Panay said of the Surface at the 2012 event. "That was part of our core vision of the product. It was very important for us that we had the hardware fade to the background for this product it was important so the Windows software could rise to the surface."

Microsoft said in 2019 that 900 million devices are running Windows 10, which was released in 2015.

Other changes to Jha's group include the retirement of Microsoft Teams leader Brian Macdonald, whose role will be subsumed under long-time executive Jeff Teper; and Kirk Koenigsbauer, who currently runs Microsoft 365, will become Jha's chief operating officer. 

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