Doubts over reli­a­bil­ity of Mi­crosoft Sur­face hard­ware

Did Mi­crosoft hide Sur­face fail­ures from their own CEO?

PC Pro - - November 2017 Issue 277 -

While its hard­ware draws much praise – in­clud­ing in this month’s re­views and Labs sec­tions – the Sur­face line has strug­gled with reli­a­bil­ity.

MI­CROSOFT HAS BEEN hit by a damn­ing ver­dict on the reli­a­bil­ity of its Sur­face hard­ware – and faces ques­tions over whether it blamed In­tel for its own faults.

Con­sumer Re­ports, the US equiv­a­lent of con­sumer watch­dog Which?, stripped Mi­crosoft’s porta­bles from its rec­om­mended list af­ter a sur­vey of more than 40,000 users found “25% of Mi­crosoft lap­tops and tablets will present their own­ers with prob­lems by the end of the sec­ond year”.

Mi­crosoft dis­missed the find­ings with a curt state­ment, say­ing: “While we re­spect Con­sumer Re­ports, we dis­agree with their find­ings. Mi­crosoft’s real-world re­turn and sup­port rates and cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion data show we are on par if not bet­ter than other de­vices in the cat­e­gory.”

How­ever, leaked doc­u­ments sug­gest that Con­sumer Re­ports’ find­ings aren’t vastly dis­sim­i­lar to Mi­crosoft’s. The charts show that Mi­crosoft did see a spike in faulty ma­chines late in 2015 when the 90-day re­turn rate hit 15% for the Sur­face Pro 4 and 17% for the Sur­face Book.

The faults spiked shortly af­ter launch and re­turn rates had dropped back to 6% by spring of this year, but the Con­sumer Re­ports sur­vey would have in­cluded those ma­chines bought shortly af­ter launch.

Blame game

Al­though the Con­sumer Re­ports doc­u­ment would have been a blow for Mi­crosoft, es­pe­cially as Sur­face sales have dipped in the past two quar­ters, the biggest da­m­age could come to Mi­crosoft’s rep­u­ta­tion. “Mi­crosoft’s goal with pro­duc­ing the Sur­face was to make this hard­ware a show­case for the OEMs as to what a ‘great’ de­vice for Win­dows 10 would look like,” said Michael Cherry, an­a­lyst with Di­rec­tions on Mi­crosoft. “It was sup­posed to be a model of hard­ware that would ex­pose Win­dows 10 fea­tures in the best cir­cum­stances.” One part­ner it may have to work par­tic­u­larly hard to ap­pease is In­tel, ac­cord­ing to sources that spoke to re­spected Win­dows watcher Paul Thur­rott. It seems there has been a be­low-sur­face rift with the chip­maker bub­bling along since those early prob­lems with the Sur­face Book and Sur­face Pro. In­ter­nally, Mi­crosoft was blam­ing the fault and crashes on In­tel’s Sky­lake hard­ware, ac­cord­ing to Thur­rott’s sources. In one blog post, a com­pany en­gi­neer even ex­plained that the prob­lems cus­tomers were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing with re­cov­er­ing from Sleep were due to a fault with the pro­ces­sors, say­ing: “Power man­age­ment is a very hard com­puter sci­ence prob­lem to solve, es­pe­cially with new sil­i­con.” The re­port claims that se­nior man­age­ment within Mi­crosoft were so con­cerned about In­tel’s com­pla­cency, and the lack of any chal­lenge from AMD, that the com­pany re­vived ef­forts to port Win­dows to ARM-based

pro­ces­sors – no small com­mit­ment af­ter the un­mit­i­gated disas­ter of its pre­vi­ous ef­fort to em­brace ARM, Win­dows RT.

How­ever, it’s now been sug­gested that the faults with the Sur­face hard­ware were noth­ing to do with In­tel, but with Mi­crosoft’s own soft­ware driv­ers.

This only came to light when Mi­crosoft CEO Satya Nadella vis­ited PC builder Len­ovo and asked how the com­pany was cop­ing with theSky­lake prob­lems. Ac­cord­ing to Thur­rott’s sources, Len­ovo’s man­age­ment were be­wil­dered, telling Nadella they had ex­pe­ri­enced no reli­a­bil­ity is­sues with In­tel’s pro­ces­sors at all. It ap­pears Mi­crosoft’s CEO had been led up the gar­den path by his own staff.

If true, it sug­gests Mi­crosoft’s en­gi­neers were so con­cerned about cov­er­ing their back­sides that they mis­led their own CEO. Mi­crosoft de­clined to com­ment on the com­pany’s in­ter­nal machi­na­tions.

Con­sumer con­fi­dence

While the rev­e­la­tions might tem­po­rar­ily sour re­la­tions be­tween Mi­crosoft and In­tel, the row is un­likely to dis­tract con­sumers, many of whom don’t know or don’t care what com­po­nents are in their lap­tops – es­pe­cially if the hard­ware is Mi­crosoft-branded.

It ap­pears Mi­crosoft’s CEO Satya Nadella had been led up the gar­den path by his own staff

“I think this whole is­sue of In­tel sup­port is a red her­ring,” said Cherry. “I am us­ing Sur­face hard­ware be­cause in the event of a prob­lem, I want to be able to walk into a Mi­crosoft store and say ‘this isn’t work­ing, fix it’.

“The hard­ware and the soft­ware have its name on them, so I don’t care who made the processor, the disk drive, the RAM or even the pen which I never use. As far as I’m con­cerned, it’s all from Mi­crosoft.”

ABOVE Sources sug­gest Mi­crosoft has had a rift with In­tel over faults with the Sur­face

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.