Windows and Surface chief Panos Panay has decided to leave Microsoft. Wikimedia Commons

Windows and Surface Chief Panos Panay is set to leave Microsoft. The top executive's unexpected departure could leave a void that may be hard to fill.

Panay's departure marks the end of an era for Microsoft since he has been one of the Redmond-based tech giant's most influential leaders.

In an email, Microsoft's vice president of experience and devices Rajesh Jha told employees: "After nearly 20 years at the company, Panos Panay has decided to leave Microsoft."

Panos Panay will not attend Microsoft's upcoming event

Panay's decision to leave Microsoft comes as a surprise since just last month, he mentioned in an X (formerly Twitter) post he was excited to appear at Microsoft's special event, which is slated to take place on September 21. However, Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw has informed the folks at The Verge that Panay will not appear at this week's event.

Panay has a reputation for divulging key details about upcoming products from the company. For example, he explained why the Surface Duo runs Android OS back in 2019. Similarly, he was expected to shed some light on the upcoming Microsoft products at the impending event.

Microsoft is set to unveil the latest additions to its Surface lineup and AI innovation during the September 21 event. The company is reportedly working on its in-house custom AI processors but it is unclear whether the chip will make an appearance at the event.

Panos Panay: A creative visionary in product-making

Panay first joined the company in 2004 as a group program manager. He was overseeing Microsoft's Surface line and other key products before becoming the company's chief product officer in 2018, He went on to lead the development of Windows 11.

After being promoted to executive vice president in 2021, he became part of the top leadership team that directly advises Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

In a post on X, Panay says he's "decided to turn the page and write the next chapter," further noting "I'm forever grateful for my time at Microsoft and the amazing people I had the honour to make products with".

Microsoft's consumer marketing head Yusuf Mehdi will "take on the responsibility of leading the Windows and Surface businesses with our OEM and Retail partners".

This major shift comes at a busy time for Microsoft, as the company is sparing no effort to add AI features to Windows 11. Moreover, past leaks suggest the next-gen Windows 12 operating system's release is just around the corner.

In a statement, Nadella said: "Thank you, Panos, for your impact on our products, culture, company, and industry over the past two decades.

"I'm grateful for your leadership, support, and all you've done for Microsoft and our customers and partners. As Rajesh stated, we remain steadfast and convicted in our strategy and Yusuf Mehdi will take lead on our Windows and Surface businesses and products externally."