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article imageMicrosoft forced to damage control as Surface problems exposed

By James Walker     Aug 14, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft has responded to Consumer Reports' finding that Surface devices have a 25 percent failure rate. While it publicly denied the report, a leaked memo reveals Microsoft is aware of reliability issues. The company said it's "proud" of Surface.
The non-profit consumer rights organisation surveyed 90,000 laptop and tablet owners. In findings published by Reuters, Consumer Reports said it was removing its recommendation of Microsoft's Surface range due to an above average breakage rate.
25 percent of owners should expect to face problems within two years of their purchase. Concerns cited by Consumer Reports included touchscreen failures, random shut downs and periods of unresponsiveness during use. The organisation acknowledged that Surface devices generally enjoy positive reviews and have a good reputation. It warned consumers should also assess brands with a "higher predicted reliability" before making a purchase though.
Microsoft hasn't taken the findings kindly. In a blog post late last week, the company's Surface visionary and devices group leader Panos Panay defended the range. He described the survey as "disappointing" and confirmed Microsoft does not agree with the findings.
Panay said return rates for 2015's Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are "significantly lower" than 25 percent but stopped short of stating an actual figure. Instead, he claimed 98 percent of owners are satisfied with their device.
Surface Laptop
Surface Laptop
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"The Surface Team's mission is and has always been to make devices that deliver great experiences to our customers and fans. It's the motivation for everything we do, and we are proud of the Surface devices we have built," said Panay. "We are proud of our products and the amazing things our customers are doing with them. I stand firmly behind the quality and reliability of the Surface family of devices, and I can confidently tell you there has never been a better time to buy a Surface."
While Microsoft is publicly contesting the survey's findings, the story took another significant turn today. Noted Microsoft journalist Paul Thurrott published an internal memo he obtained from sources inside the company. Written by Panay, it includes actual return rates for the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, provides the figure missing from his "significantly lower" public claim.
Microsoft Surface Pro [2017]
Microsoft Surface Pro [2017]
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The memo seems to support Consumer Reports' findings. It shows the Surface Book return rate peaked at 17 percent after launch and remained above 10 percent for its first six months. The Surface Pro 4 fared better, dropping to 10 percent from 16 percent after just a month.
Worryingly for Microsoft, this represents a decline in quality with its newer products though. The Surface Pro 3, widely attributed as the launch that made Surface a category-defining device, had a 10 percent initial return rate that quickly fell to 5 percent.
In the memo, Panay acknowledges Microsoft has had to "work tirelessly" to fix problems with its newer members of the Surface family. "Unfortunately, [the improvements] were not reflected in the [survey] results," Panay wrote. Microsoft seems to have been forced to take a defensive stance against the report, publishing a blog post that's really a fa├žade for its efforts to address the underlying issues.
The company's recently launched 2017 Surface Pro and Surface Laptop will now be responsible for restoring the brand's image. Apparently, Panay is aware of the need for change. In his memo, he said he's preparing a "comprehensive" set of data for Microsoft retail partners that will inform them of the details of the situation. Evidently, there's more happening behind the scenes than Panay's blog post would suggest.
More about Microsoft, Surface, Devices, Microsoft surface, Consumer reports
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