Microsoft launched the original Surface tablet in 2012 to mixed reviews and tepid sales, resulting in a $900 million writedown for the company. But according to Panos Panay, the corporate vice president who created and oversees the Surface line, the failure was humbling but rewarding.
In an interview with CNN Money, Panay said former CEO Steve Ballmer and current CEO Satya Nadella gave the Surface team clear visions for where they wanted to take the tablet line and knew success wouldn't come easily or quickly.
"It's going to take time – these businesses [are] big investments [and] take a lot of time," he said. "And now we've seen a bit of a turn. That's important, let's be clear. Like, there's no doubt. Having a product that people love is the most important thing, and do you believe that you can get there. And the answer was always yes."
"We feel really good about the next set of products we're bringing into the world." - Panos Panay
Panay noted that the writedown "will never go away," but he noted that the Surface team learned "unbelievably valuable" lessons from the initial response to their product line. The lessons learned from the success the team has received with the Surface Pro 3 have been equally important, he said, adding that Microsoft has allowed the team's vision to flourish.
"That balance of learning has brought us to a point that we feel really good about the next set of products we're bringing to the world," Panay said. "Right now, this company is changing. We want to fail faster; we want to succeed sooner. Those two things go hand in hand, and if you fail, this company's amazing – they will support you, you just have to learn from it."
Since the original Surface's poor sales, Microsoft's tablet line has seen a turnaround, with it becoming a $1 billion business for the company, according to its most recent financial results. The positive financial impact has largely come on the success of the Surface Pro 3, though a smaller Surface tablet was canceled, possibly stifling further financial gains.
Microsoft has yet to announce a smaller Surface tablet to rival the likes of Apple's iPad mini, though the company has said its operating system will come to smaller tablets as well. Despite the comments, no recent reports have suggested that Microsoft is currently working on a smaller tablet.
Source: CNN Money