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Microsoft Surface team takes a hit as chief Brian Hall joins Doppler Labs

Why it matters to you

Former Microsoft exec Brian Hall was instrumental in making the Surface a go-to platform and his departure leaves a sizable gap in leadership.

One of Microsoft’s most surprising recent successes has been its Surface line of PC hardware. The Surface Pro 4, Surface Book, and Surface Studio are currently the halo devices for their respective categories, and those — the Windows 10 detachable-keyboard tablet, notebook-centric 2-in-1, and creative desktop all-in-one — are indeed categories that Surface itself created.

Central to the effort to grow Surface into such a recognizable and arguably dominant brand was Brian Hall, the corporate vice president of Microsoft devices, who led the Surface Lumia, HoloLens, accessories, and other hardware businesses. The Surface line, therefore, received a serious blow on Tuesday when Hall announced his departure from Microsoft to join Doppler Labs on that company’s blog.

Hall will serve as Doppler Labs Chief Operating Office, where he will oversee the operations of a company that is focused on providing a high-end line of completely wireless Bluetooth headphones, the Here One. He is joining the company just in time, as well, given that the Here One is set to launch on February 21.

Hall is clearly proud of his time at Microsoft: “I’m joining Doppler Labs by way of Microsoft, where I spent more than 20 years, and most recently, ran the Surface and Devices businesses including Surface Hub and HoloLens. I also worked in engineering and marketing across Windows, online services, and hardware. Surface was a particularly great ride and was my focus for the last several years. When I joined the Surface team, Apple was the de facto dominating force, but by the time I left, Surface was one of the fastest-growing major tech products that was giving Apple a run for its money.”

Hall intends to duplicate his former company’s success in creating high-quality products that compete with the likes of Apple and that define new categories of products aimed at helping people get things done. The focus is a little different, but the objective is the same, Hall writes:

“As COO at Doppler, I want to help lead the charge to do the same thing for Here One. I joined Doppler because of the team’s mission to give everyone superhuman hearing, letting people hear exactly what they want to hear and remove what they don’t. But I was equally impressed when I experienced Here One.”

Microsoft has some important Surface updates coming up, with new Surface Book and Surface Pro iterations expected sometime in 2017.