Some of you might consider it an upside down world that sees a high-profile Microsoft executive interviewed and praising the company’s well-regarded, successful line of hardware, at a time when the company is valued at $790 billion compared to longtime rival Apple’s $778 billion. All in all, Microsoft has certainly had a strong 2018 and continued to emerge as a resurgent player in tech, and it’s thanks in part to the company taking a heads-down focus on areas where it thinks the company excels, such as in work and productivity.
Along those lines, here comes Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, who dropped a few hints about what’s to come in a new interview with the top newspaper in Ireland, the Irish Independent.
Given that he’s a prominent figure at the company, he does the normal thing of sharing lots of non-answers, like professing that Microsoft “learned” a great deal from its misadventures in the mobile space (without really saying what it is that Microsoft actually learned). The interesting part of the interview, however, comes after Panos is asked about Microsoft’s new Surface Headphones, which critics generally liked and include features like noise-canceling technology.
Does this signal that Microsoft is moving its Surface hardware line beyond a focus on work and into the consumer space, Panos is asked? Not necessarily, he responds. Think about it, he continues — plenty of people use headphones to block out noise and work in an office, in cafes, in trains and elsewhere.
Which naturally leads the questioner to ask, okay, if you guys are thinking about blending the work and personal in that way, via bringing a typically personal product like that into usage for work, in what other ways are you similarly thinking about expanding the Surface line?
While acknowledging that he, of course, can’t lay out a product road map, here’s Panos’ answer:
“Are we completing experiences for people at work and at home? The answer is yes. So will you see new form factors that can do that, or need to do that? The answer is absolutely. And that’s how it kind of comes together. For me, work and home equals life, whether the device is in the kitchen at home, in the home office, in your work office or on your body. They’re coming together. So yeah, you’ll see more products that focus on where our customers are going to be.”
Does that mean we’ll finally get our hands on a long-rumored Surface phone, a foldable device or something entirely new, maybe that meshes a phone and PC together? We’ve seen an industry-wide contraction in PC and tablet sales, so it will certainly be interesting to see what Microsoft cooks up here given that it’s been by and large successful on the Surface front so far.