Tuesday, 15 August 2017 10:42

Microsoft campaign to counter Surface reliability claims

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Microsoft is preparing a campaign to neutralise the announcement last week by consumer goods testing publication Consumer Reports that four of its Surface-branded devices are not up to the mark as far as reliability is concerned.

Veteran Windows watcher Paul Thurrott wrote that he had seen an internal company memorandum from Microsoft corporate vice-president Panos Panay to this effect.

"It’s important for us to always learn more from our customers and how they view their ownership journey with our products," the memo reads. "Feedback like this (from Consumer Reports) stings, but pushes us to obsess more about our customers."

Consumer Reports said last week that it was removing its "recommended" mark from the Surface Laptop (128GB and 256GB versions) and the Surface Book (128GB and 512GB) versions.

Thurrott said the memo made mention of "some quality issues" that Microsoft had experienced with "the launch of Surface Book and Surface Pro 4", which he said he had summarised in a post last year.

At that time, a number of senior officials had told him that the issues were all the fault of Intel; it was claimed that the Skylake line of processors were the buggiest line ever. This was reported to have led to a falling out with the chip vendor.

Thurrott says he was given to understand that Microsoft's move to ARM with Windows 10 was a result of thinking that Intel's dominance needed to be countered and AMD was unable to provide competition.

But, Thurrott wrote, another source had told him that the whole story was made up by Microsoft and that the real problem for the Surface issues was custom drivers and settings.

He said the falsehoods about Skylake were exposed when Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella met executives from Lenovo last year and inquired as to how they were dealing with the reported Skylake reliability issues.

"Lenovo was confused. No one was having any issues, he was told," Thurrott wrote. "I assume this led to some interesting conversations between the members of the Microsoft senior leadership team."

About the recent memo, Thurrott said that while it claimed the Surface teams had worked to improve the hardware, their efforts had not been reflected by Consumer Reports.

Panay cited Net Promoter Score for the Surface line as being higher than for other OEMs; however this did not measure reliability but rather customer satisfaction.

Thurrott says claims are made that Surface worldwide return rates have fallen over the last 12 months.

Panay also says that several publications have defended Microsoft though no evidence has been provided to prove that Consumer Reports was wrong.

"Microsoft is determined to tell its story and to reassure its customers that it is serious about providing an excellent and high-quality experience to all Surface customers," Thurrott wrote.

"Put simply, Microsoft Surface has had some reliability issues. And Microsoft believes it has turned the corner on those issues."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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