Panos Panay, Surface general manager, at the unveiling of the Microsoft tablet in Hollywood in June.

Microsoft’s decision to develop its own tablet computer was a historic moment for a company that built one of the biggest businesses in the tech industry by focusing almost exclusively on software. Just as surprising: The company was able to keep the project under wraps until the Surface unveiling earlier this year.

We’ll recognize the Newsmakers of the Year at the GeekWire Gala, Dec. 6 at McCaw Hall in Seattle. Details and Tickets Here.

Leading the team is Panos Panay, the general manager of Microsoft Surface. He is also responsible for the Microsoft Hardware division, which makes the company’s keyboards, mice and other peripherals. Panay won high marks from pundits for his introduction of the Surface tablet’s hardware and design at the June unveiling.

“This was built as a stage for Windows 8,” he said as explained the approach. “That was part of our core vision for the product. It was very important for us that we had the hardware fade to the background for this product. It was important so the Windows software could rise to the surface.”

A Microsoftie since 2004, Panay previously worked on the Microsoft Surface tabletop computer, which has been renamed PixelSense since the Surface tablet launch.

There are plenty of challenges ahead for the Surface tablet, but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has made it clear that the company won’t shy away from making more hardware — which positions Panay and his team as critical to the future of the company.

We’re pleased to name Panos Panay to our list of GeekWire Newsmakers of the Year for 2012.

We’re spotlighting all of our Newsmakers on GeekWire this month, leading up to the GeekWire Gala Dec. 6 at McCaw Hall in Seattle. Many of the newsmakers from the list will be joining us and the rest of the tech community that night to mark a remarkable year of news. Tickets available here.

See all of our 2012 Newsmakers profiles here.

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  • guest

    He’s very passionate and they did some good work on Surface’s hardware. But as your own experience pointed out, they’re are still some problems and head scratching decisions in the final product. If they had come to market three years ago that might have been enough. If this project had only taken a year, then maybe some of those shortcomings could be excused. But they’ve been working on this by their own admission for three years. That’s more than sufficient time to understand they’re way late to the tablet party and competing against an ecosystem (two really) now, not just a hardware product, and one that has huge momentum and maturity. 80% of a well designed hardware device, coupled with a very rough and immature touch OS, a dearth of apps, and pricing that isn’t aggressive, doesn’t begin to be competitive.

  • Cameron

    Congrats, Panos! Well deserved…

  • guest

    bordering obnoxious and most definitely cheesy is how i would describe him and his presentations…

    • Danonym

      Your kneejerk response to everything MS related

    • arrow2010

      Let me guess, you love all Apple!

  • JimmyFal

    Panos passion for the product is what counts. For every 1 person that doesn’t not like his personality, there are 10 that do. Anytime MS can put someone on stage that does not look or behave awkwardly and can present in a smooth and uninterrupted fashion it is a huge plus. Mike Angiulo gets high marks in this department as well. These two guys should be featured prominently on stage for years to come, although lets keep Angiulo from “rapping” too much. :)

    After a month of bug fixes and software updates, my Surface is a solid device and the usability is not just good enough but surpasses that of any device I have used. The apps and performance improvements to come will be icing on the cake. This device is a stage for Windows 8.

    • arrow2010

      What about Joe B?

  • Guest

    It’s amazing to me how so many people put value into the product reviews and random articles that are written about the Surface. The product is solid, and I know so because I own one. For those of you who believe everything you read, you are truly naïve and don’t realize that someone makes money on every article. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wall Street is behind most of them. The shorties on Wall Street are always battling those who prefer stock prices to go up.

  • davidw316

    By far their best speaker.

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