Amazon has hired (as expected) Microsoft’s former product boss, Panos Panay, to head up its Devices & Services division.

Amazon confirmed the appointment on Wednesday – a week after Bloomberg had reported that Panos Panay was being hired to run Amazon’s device division (known internally as Lab126).

Panay will replace David Limp, the long-serving senior vice president of Devices & Services who announced last month he is stepping down.

David Limp, senior vice president of Devices & Services, Amazon.
Image Credit Amazon

Microsoft departure

Panos Panay had worked at Redmond for nearly two decades, and was the familiar face of Microsoft’s product launches and hosting events for the consumer segment in his role as Chief Product Officer.

In recent years Panay was known for overseeing Microsoft’s Surface line, and he became the company’s chief product officer in 2018, where he led the development of the Windows 11 operating system.

In 2021, Panay was promoted to executive vice president as part of the top leadership team that directly advised Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

His abrupt departure earlier this month, which came just days before Microsoft hosted an event in New York to reveal its next generation of Surface devices, raised a few eyebrows.

This was especially the case after Panay had tweeted he was excited to appear at Microsoft’s special event on Thursday, 21 September – an event he never attended.

Panay was regarded as one of Microsoft’s better (and enthusiastic) product presenters, and he confirmed his departure from Microsoft in a short tweet on X (formerly Twitter).

Amazon confirmation

“As a strong product builder and inventor who has deep experience in both hardware and integrated services, Panos will be a great addition to our D&S organization moving forward,” said Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Wednesday.

“Panos will start at the end of October, and Dave Limp will work with him over the next couple of months to ensure a smooth transition,” Jassy said. “I remain quite excited about the invention happening and businesses that we’re building in D&S, and look forward to working with Panos.”

“I’ve known Panos for years, and believe he will be a great addition to this organisation moving forward,” added David Limp, who is retiring. “He is a passionate product leader and I can’t wait to see what all of you invent together.”

“I’ll work diligently with him for the next two months to ensure a smooth transition through our fall (Autumn) launches and getting through our OP1 planning,” Limp said.

Limp last week had hosted Amazon’s annual product launch in Arlington, Virginia, where Amazon showed off updates to its Alexa voice assistant with generative artificial intelligence capabilities.

That development should herald an end to Alexa’s usual robotic tone for the past decade, and allow for more natural sounding conversations.

Amazon also unveiled a host of new products and features including updates to the Echo Frames eyeglasses (with Alexa embedded for when a person is outside the home), refreshed versions of its Blink outdoor security cameras; Eero Wi-Fi 7 mesh extenders; refreshed versions of children’s Fire tablets; a soundbar for televisions; and new search capabilities on the FireTV service, to name but a few.

Amazon Echo Frames with Alexa.
Image credit Amazon.

Demoralised division?

However Panay may have his work cut out for him at Amazon’s device and services division.

Reuters had previously reported that following the departure of its long-serving head David Limp, moral at the division has waned amid the job losses and weak development pipeline.

Prior to him stepping down, Limp had sought to reassure concerned Alexa customers, when Amazon implemented major job cuts that heavily impacted the devices division.

Moral were not helped when it was reported that the division had fallen out of favour with Amazon’s current management.

Alexa was said to be championed by former CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, but it is alleged that Alexa has never managed to create an ongoing revenue stream for Amazon.

Indeed, some reports have suggested the division is losing as much as $10 billion a year.

It has also been suggested that just about every plan to monetise Alexa had failed, with one former employee branding Alexa “a colossal failure of imagination,” and “a wasted opportunity.”

In its Reuters report about the demoralised device division, Reuters apparently interviewed more than 15 current and former employees, who report that morale within the division has suffered amid staff cutbacks and a pipeline of devices in development that they fear are unlikely to prove hits.

Amazon’s Astro robot. Image credit: Amazon
Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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