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Microsoft’s Panos Panay on building Surface, and the future of the PC

29 Oct 2020

Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay is enthused about the future of the personal computer, arguing that PCs have never been more important as the world navigates the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this exclusive South African interview with Panay (watch or listen to it below), TechCentral talks to the man behind Microsoft’s push into PC hardware in recent years, what impact the company’s Surface products have had on the computer industry and why a software maker decided to get into the hardware game so aggressively.

Microsoft, which recently launched its first Surface products in South Africa — with the promise of more to come — took a gamble when it decided to build its own computer hardware, in effect competing with its own original equipment manufacturing (OEM) partners such as Dell and HP.

“To make a great product, you can’t have great software without the hardware; you can’t have great hardware without the software,” Panay said.

In the interview, Panay talks about his background and how he landed the Microsoft job in Seattle. He also answers some key questions, including:

  • How did Microsoft build a leading hardware business almost from scratch — until then, outside the Xbox division, it had made mainly peripherals such as keyboards and webcams?
  • Has it been easier to build the Surface business under Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella than it would have been under Nadella’s predecessors, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates (Ballmer still provides Panay with feedback on all new Surface devices);
  • What pushback was there from the PC industry and how did Microsoft deal with that?
  • Why did it take a software company to show hardware manufacturers what’s possible in PC hardware?

It’s a great interview with a pioneer in the PC industry. Don’t miss it!

Watch the video

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