Mi­crosoft com­bines Win­dows and Sur­face

Mi­crosoft’s lat­est re­or­ga­ni­za­tion isn’t yet of­fi­cial, but it’s likely to be an­nounced soon. MARK HACHMAN re­ports

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

Mi­crosoft is com­bin­ing its Win­dows client and Sur­face teams into a ded­i­cated unit led by prod­uct chief Panos Panay, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port, po­ten­tially align­ing its op­er­at­ing sys­tem and PC hard­ware un­der the same roof.

Ac­cord­ing to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Fo­ley, the com­bi­na­tion will be named ‘Win­dows + De­vices’, and will be led by Panay. Joe Belfiore, who leads the Win­dows Ex­pe­ri­ence team, will move over to the Of­fice side of the house later in the year. A source close to Mi­crosoft con­firmed the re­port, though Mi­crosoft’s not con­firm­ing it pub­licly for now.

“Per­son­ally I’m very ex­cited to lead the Win­dows Client for Mi­crosoft, which will help us stream­line our de­ci­sion-mak­ing pro­cesses, be clear on our pri­or­i­ties, and de­liver the best end user ex­pe­ri­ences from sil­i­con through op­er­at­ing sys­tems across all Mi­crosoft apps and ser­vice con­nected de­vices (OEMs and Sur­face),” Panay wrote in an in­ter­nal memo, as re­ported by Fo­ley. “We be­lieve this will make the Win­dows Client ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter for the en­tire PC ecosys­tem.”

Sur­face + Win­dows: Un­fair ad­van­tage?

The com­bi­na­tion will align Win­dows and Mi­crosoft’s PC busi­ness even closer, in much the same way that Ap­ple’s soft­ware and hard­ware teams work closely to­gether, or Google’s Chromebook and Pixel teams talk to the An­droid and ChromeOS de­vel­op­ers. That’s worked out well for Ap­ple, of course, and the An­droid ecosys­tem is thriv­ing.

The PC in­dus­try, of course, is a much more frag­mented and frag­ile busi­ness. A sur­pris­ing jolt in sales dur­ing 2019 was im­me­di­ately be­ing fol­lowed by pre­dic­tions of a cor­re­spond­ing drop once the in­dus­try nav­i­gated the tran­si­tion from Win­dows 7 to Win­dows 10. Mi­crosoft, mean­while, saw its Sur­face sales grow to nearly $2 bil­lion (around £1.53bn) even

as com­pany ex­ec­u­tives noted ex­e­cu­tion prob­lems within the con­sumer Sur­face busi­ness.

Ob­vi­ously, the Win­dows teams and the Sur­face hard­ware group work at the same com­pany, so a cer­tain amount of col­lab­o­ra­tion would be nat­u­ral. This does take it to the next level, how­ever. Mi­crosoft has tra­di­tion­ally syn­chro­nized its Sur­face an­nounce­ments with cor­re­spond­ing updates within Win­dows, although it was re­ally the Oc­to­ber, 2018 Sur­face launch when Panay and Yusuf Me­hdi, Mi­crosoft’s cor­po­rate vice pres­i­dent of what Mi­crosoft then called Mod­ern Life and De­vices, overtly tied prod­ucts like the Sur­face Pro 6 to col­lab­o­ra­tion, Of­fice, and Win­dows.

PC mak­ers wor­ried that Mi­crosoft was try­ing to take over the PC busi­ness when the tech gi­ant launched the orig­i­nal Sur­face many years ago. In re­sponse, Mi­crosoft po­si­tioned de­vices like the Sur­face tablet and the Sur­face Stu­dio as trail­blaz­ers, es­tab­lish­ing a mar­ket that PC mak­ers could then fill out.

Of course, Mi­crosoft’s ‘trail­blaz­ing’ ef­forts haven’t al­ways led to a surge in sim­i­lar prod­ucts. Con­sider the Win­dows tablet mar­ket: the Sur­face Pro (2017), Sur­face Pro 6, and the re­cent Sur­face Pro 7 sim­ply haven’t faced much com­pe­ti­tion, as OEMs some­what de-em­pha­sized tablets in favour of more tra­di­tional clamshell de­signs. On the other hand, Mi­crosoft will fol­low com­pa­nies like Len­ovo and its ThinkPad X1 Fold into the mar­ket with the fold­able Sur­face Neo, due this au­tumn.

Does Mi­crosoft’s re­or­ga­ni­za­tion pose a dire threat to the greater PC in­dus­try? Of course not. But it might have a de­mor­al­iz­ing ef­fect on PC mak­ers, some of which have to feel that Mi­crosoft’s moves make it

tougher for ev­ery­one to com­pete. Mi­crosoft’s re­cent em­pha­sis on the cloud – and in ef­fect, away from the PC – likely fu­els such con­cerns.

It will be up to Mi­crosoft to make the case that the move ben­e­fits the PC in­dus­try as a whole, and not just Mi­crosoft. We’ll have to see what Mi­crosoft says in that re­gard as it pub­licly spins its lat­est re­or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Mi­crosoft is ex­pected to launch the fold­able Sur­face Neo in the au­tumn

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