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Ralf Groene, who lead Microsoft's Surface design team, has announced his retirement

Surface Pro 8 Laptop Studio Go 3 Pro X and Duo 2 devices placed in a white background

Microsoft has lost another one of the major forces behind the company's hardware products in general and its Surface PCs in particular. Ralf Groene, who was the head of Industrial Design at the company, just announced his immediate retirement from Microsoft.

Groene posted his brief public notice about his new status on his LinkedIn page (via Windows Central), writing simply, "I’m happy to share that I’m now retired." There's no word on why he decided to retire from Microsoft at this time.

During his time at the company, Groene was one of the driving forces for Microsoft's Surface PC lineups. His designs started with the original Surface RT which first launched in October 2012. In 2015, he discussed how the Surface team came up with its kickstand feature.

Originally, the team just glued in a crude kickstand to a standard tablet. That's where it stood until a few days later when a member of the Surface team offered their opinion that this idea of adding a kickstand to a tablet "might actually be a good idea". As it turned out, the kickstand became one of the signature features of the entire Surface device lineup and has since been used by other PC makers who created Windows-based tablets.

Groene's retirement from Microsoft comes several months after yet another abrupt but major departure. Panos Panay, who led the Microsoft Surface team since its beginning, and later went on to lead the entire Windows team, left the company after 19 years in September 2023. A few days later, he was named as the head of the Devices and Services team at Amazon.

With the departure of Panay and now Groene, it will be interesting to see how the Surface division will evolve at Microsoft. The company announced the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 for business users in late March, and it's expected that consumer versions of those products will launch later this year. Also in March, Microsoft named Pavan Davuluri as the new head of both Windows and Surface divisions. We will have to wait and see how his leadership will affect future Surface devices.

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