This weekend I went out with my ten year old daughter to select a laptop for her school year beginning in January. The schools requirements are quite specific, requiring a Windows 10 device, with a preference for a touchscreen and a stylus. She chose a Surface Pro, after trying a large number of different options. Having seen the way I use my own Surface Pro - and tried it herself there was only ever going to be two options - and the other was a Surface Laptop.
I tell you this so that you understand I am a buyer of Microsoft's products through choice, not compulsion. I'm on my third Surface device now.
So when Panos Panay dismissed reports of the death of the Surface hardware line, I was very interested to see exactly how strong these denials were. Especially how they reflect what has gone before. To whit: Windows 10 Mobile.
Panay claimed that Microsoft is in hardware for the long haul. Almost exactly mirroring the words of Terry Myerson, when he claimed Windows Mobile was going nowhere, just eighteen months ago.
We all know how that ended.
Panay may himself remain committed to Surface and Surface hardware, and there's no question that his team are knocking it out of the park in terms of design and flexibility. At the same time, every other move Microsoft is making is focused on becoming a services company. A hardware division doesn't really sit too well in that future model for the company.
So whilst I think the Surface business is safe for now, I really don't see it having a long-term future within Microsoft. The only exception being a game changing Surface product which sells in big numbers and steals premium hardware sales from Apple. Given the Surface's almost zero impact on Apple sales numbers thus far, I can't see that happening.