Microsoft signals renewed interest in Windows with latest reshuffle

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Microsoft is making some significant changes to the way it runs its Windows organization this week, signaling a renewed focus on the operating system that made its name.

The software giant placed Surface chief Panos Panay in charge of Windows earlier this year, and is now reshuffling parts of that team. It follows Microsoft’s decision to slice Windows into two parts more than two years ago after the departure of former Windows chief Terry Myerson. Microsoft moved core Windows development to a cloud and AI team (Azure), and created a new group to work on Windows 10 “experiences” like apps, the Start menu, and new features.

Now, Microsoft is moving parts of Windows development back under Panos Panay’s control. Specifically, that means the Windows fundamentals and developer experience teams have been returned to what we traditionally call the Windows team. It’s an admission that the big Windows split didn’t work quite as planned. We’ve seen plenty of evidence of that with a messy development experience for Windows 10, delayed Windows updates, a lack of major new features, and lots of Windows update issues recently.

Microsoft’s Panos Panay.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge has obtained an internal memo from Panos Panay that goes into detail on the changes being made here. While some core parts of Windows, particularly the engineering side, will stay with the Azure division, Microsoft’s reshuffle is focused on cleaning up Windows to ship and update it reliably. The changes also align Microsoft’s Project Reunion app work, bringing win32 and UWP apps closer together, with the Windows team.

Microsoft’s Windows team under Panay will still work closely with the core engineering side of Windows under Azure, but the reshuffle should make for more consistency and a greater focus on Windows inside Microsoft. “Windows is a partnership,” says Panay. “Innovation and success are only possible through close collaboration with other teams across Microsoft.”

A bigger focus on Windows inside Microsoft comes during an ongoing pandemic that has proved how important the operating system is. Windows usage has jumped as workers and students across the world turn to laptops and PCs over mobile phones to work from home. PC shipments have also surged as businesses adapt to a new reality. Microsoft recognized this change earlier this year, and shifted its Windows 10X operating system to focus on laptops over dual-screen devices.

Panay now says he’s “pumped” (he’s always pumped) to welcome new members to his Windows team. “With this team, with our partners, we are going to make magic together,” says Panay in his internal memo. Microsoft’s Windows and Devices business, headed by Panay, will now focus on three areas according to the memo:

  • Deliver iconic experiences across Microsoft, lighting up both modern work and life.
  • Grow the business of Windows and Surface, delivering the best of Microsoft and creating end-user pull.
  • Lead the industry through innovation and technology, enabling our ecosystem of partners to thrive.

Microsoft’s focus on growing Windows and Surface is a good sign for Windows users. Microsoft’s Surface business continues to grow in terms of revenue, and there are indications that businesses are adopting the company’s own PCs. A bigger focus on Windows and Surface should hopefully allow Microsoft to deliver on its promises for a better combination of hardware and software.

Microsoft has been working towards these design changes for years now, learning from its past mistakes. With Panay taking more responsibility for Windows, we’re hoping to see more consistency with Microsoft’s Fluent design system across the OS and more reliability with the company’s monthly and yearly Windows updates. It’s about time Windows got a bit more love.

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