Five years ago this month, following a

">dramatic onstage unveiling the previous June, Microsoft shipped the original Surface Pro. Part iPad rival and part next-generation notebook computer, the ambitious device was the first PC running full-blown Windows that Microsoft ever designed and sold itself—which made it a landmark for the company as well as the industry. That initial Surface Pro defied early critics (including, ahem, me) to become a signficant business for Microsoft and the progenitor of a line of additional products including the Surface Hub, Book, Studio, Dial, and Laptop. With everyone from HP to Apple entering the category it defined with their own tablet/laptop hybrids, it’s also been among the most influential computing devices of its era.

As the Surface Pro marks its first half-decade, I chatted about its past, present, and future with Microsoft corporate vice president Panos Panay, who has spearheaded the Surface effort from the start. The passion he’s exuded during various Surface launch events over the years—a rarity in any big-company product demo—was just as apparent during our conversation.

This interview has been edited and condensed for publication.

Fast Company: As you look back upon this journey—not just to the original announcement, but to the origins of the whole Surface project—what’s been most surprising to you?

Panos Panay: My brain goes to two places. I don’t know if it’s the word “surprising” as much as “humbling,” but they’re right in line with each other. The adoption across the industry of the vision that we were so anchored on from day one has…