Departing Microsoft exec Panos Panay set to lead Amazon’s Alexa and Echo business – GeekWire

Panos Panay was the longtime leader of Microsoft’s hardware and devices business, whose responsibilities were expanded to include oversight of the Windows and Devices division. (Microsoft Photo)

Amazon is expected to name Panos Panay, the longtime Microsoft Windows and Devices leader, as the new executive in charge of the division that includes its Alexa voice assistant and Echo smart devices, Bloomberg News reports, citing unnamed people familiar with the situation.

Microsoft announced Panay’s surprise departure earlier Monday morning.

Panay would replace Dave Limp, Amazon’s devices and services chief, who said in August that he would step down this year after more than 13 years at the company.

The news comes during a pivotal week for both companies. Amazon is scheduled to hold its annual Echo and Alexa product unveiling Wednesday morning at its second headquarters in Arlington, Va. Microsoft hosts its own event in New York City on Thursday where Surface and Windows-related announcements are expected. 

We’ve contacted Amazon for comment on the report. Microsoft isn’t commenting beyond its earlier statement on Panay’s exit.

Non-compete agreements have been a recurring issue when executives have moved between the companies. Issues of confidentiality and trade secrets came up when senior Amazon Web Services exec Charlie Bell left Amazon and joined Microsoft in 2021 to lead its security division. The companies ultimately reached a truce.

Microsoft has discontinued its Cortana voice assistant, which was previously a counterpart to Alexa, but the rise of generative AI could create new areas of competition between the companies.

Amazon’s Alexa group is under pressure to catch up to the conversational abilities of new forms of AI, most notably ChatGPT, made by Microsoft’s strategic partner OpenAI. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told analysts in April that Amazon was working on a new large language model for Alexa “that’s much larger, and much more generalized, and capable.”

Amazon conducted layoffs in its Devices & Services team in 2022 as part of company-wide cuts, amid reports that the division was losing as much as $10 billion a year.

Microsoft’s Windows and Devices businesses surged during the pandemic but declined in the company’s most recent fiscal year, which ended in June. Windows revenue fell 13% to $24.7 billion, and Devices revenue, including the Microsoft Surface hardware lineup, was down 24% to $5.5 billion.

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft corporate vice president and consumer chief marketing officer, will lead the Windows and Surface business, according to an internal email this morning from Rajesh Jha, Microsoft executive vice president.

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