Amazon is reportedly poised to hire Microsoft’s former product boss, Panos Panay, following his abrupt departure this week from Redmond.

Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the situation, reported that Panos Panay is being hired to run Amazon’s device division (known internally as Lab126). Amazon’s device division is the unit responsible for the Kindle reader, the voice-activated Alexa assistant and Echo smart speakers.

Panay will apparently 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

Panos Panay

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 he 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 just days before Microsoft hosts 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 recently tweeted he was excited to appear at Microsoft’s special event on Thursday, 21 September.

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

Demoralised division?

But if the Bloomberg report pans out, Panay may have his work cut out for him if he does join Amazon’s device and services division.

Reuters 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 denial

Amazon however denied the Reuters report of a demoralised device and services division.

“To suggest that a few anecdotes paint a picture of reality for an organisation as large and diverse as Devices and Services is inaccurate,” spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall was quoted in a written response to questions about morale and devices at Lab126.

The “business has been a staple of innovation for over a decade and has created a series of products that are meaningful parts of people’s everyday lives,” the spokesperson added.

However the Reuters sources said the lab’s years of losses and shifting strategies have contributed to lowered morale. Many pointed to the Astro home monitoring robot launched in 2021 that, at $1,600, remains niche and was criticised for giving some consumers the creeps.

Amazon Astro

That followed a series of poorly selling devices, such as a voice-assistant-powered clock, the Fire smartphone and a camera that doubles as a personal stylist, the sources said.

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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