Microsoft’s Surface lineup has become the pioneer of 2-in-1 devices after a huge letdown in 2012 when the original RT model failed to meet expectations, so the Redmond-based tech giant is willing to continue investments in a product that’s currently the main catalyst for its hardware growth.

Panos Panay, corporate vice president of devices and the head of Surface at Microsoft, says that his company’s main goal is to tackle what he calls “the very premium market” and the ultimate purpose is to become an alternative to Apple.

The Cupertino-based rival Apple has led the market for many years now with its premium and rather expensive MacBook series, but Microsoft says that the Surface Book, and the Surface Pro line of devices, are the first real alternatives to these models.

“Let me be clear. Our intent is to compete in the very premium market… We look at Apple as a key competitor to the Surface product line and that’s how we think about the product line. We want to give our customers more options in the premium space,” Panay explained in an interview with MobileSyrup.

Talking about the Surface RT, Panay says that it was a decisive device for the future of Microsoft’s hardware efforts.

“It was a tragedy that I’ll never forget. It’s just ingrained, but it’s also a blessing. There’s something to that moment. It’s probably the most humbling thing this team has ever gone through. I think it was needed and not necessarily unexpected. It was all about learning during that time.”

The Surface RT failed to sell in big numbers mostly because of Windows RT, a tablet version of Windows 8 that could only run apps from the store. Given the fact that the lack of apps dramatically impacted Windows 8 adoption despite Microsoft’s push, Surface RT sales remained low, and buyers weren’t the only ones avoiding the platform. Several OEMs, including Samsung, refused to build Windows RT devices because of the setbacks it brought.

Next step: The Surface Phone

Panos Panay hasn’t talked about what’s next for the Surface division, but spring 2017 should bring us a plethora of new devices, all under the Surface brand.

Refreshes to the Surface Pro and Surface Book are expected, but for Microsoft fans, there’s something even more exciting. Panay is believed to be the man responsible for continuing Microsoft’s mobile efforts, so his team could be the one building the next smartphone intuitively-called the Surface Phone.

Also expected to launch early next year, the Surface Phone is seen as Microsoft’s only chance to survive in the mobile industry, despite that many claim its mobile platform is already dead. Little is known about the Surface Phone, but Microsoft is trying to adopt the same approach as it had for the Surface tablet, with premium quality and top-notch hardware.

The Surface Phone will run Windows 10 Mobile and be available at high prices, with sources claiming that three models might be launched to tackle different customers.

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