Microsoft cops heat for problems with Surface PC line

By Justin Ware. Published at Aug 18, 2017, in Features

After several reliability surveys and extensive testing, Consumer Reports has stripped its ‘recommended’ tag from Microsoft’s Surface PC line.

“Consumer Reports is removing its ‘recommended’ designation from four Microsoft laptops and cannot recommend any other Microsoft laptops or tablets because of poor predicted reliability in comparison with most other brands,” the company’s website said.

The move to denounce the tech giant’s latest offerings was unprecedented, with the website previously giving the thumbs up to past iterations from the Surface line.

In isolation, this recent news shouldn’t bother Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ: MSFT), which announced US$24.7 billion in revenue for Q4 FY2017. But Consumer Reports is no ordinary publication, with over seven million subscribers. It boasts an annual testing budget of US$25 million, and is one of the most prominent consumer advocacy outlets available.

Combined with its consistent ‘no outside advertisement or commercial influences’ stance, Consumer Reports has become one of the most trusted and respected sources in the industry.

Its testing found some troubling results where Microsoft’s Surface range is concerned, “New studies conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center estimate that 25 per cent of Microsoft laptops and tablets will present their owners with problems by the end of the second year of ownership.”

The report took aim at the Microsoft Surface Laptop (128GB and 256GB versions) and Microsoft Surface Book (128GB and 512GB versions), claiming their estimated breakage rate was significantly higher than competitors.

It wasn’t all bad news however, with the document noting that Microsoft was still relatively new to the hardware scene and assuring readers that the products would be tested again in 12 months.

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Will the report hurt Microsoft’s sales?

The results will likely impact sales of the Surface line moving forward, despite Microsoft taking considerable steps to fix previous known issues. Microsoft disputed the report findings and questioned the testing standards concerned.

“Microsoft’s real-world return and support rates for past models differ significantly from Consumer Reports’ breakage predictability. We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or capture performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation.”

Panos Panay, who heads up Microsoft’s Surface products, reaffirmed the company’s stance on the report.

“The Surface team’s mission is and has always been to make devices that deliver great experiences to our customers and fans,” she said.

“That is why the Consumer Reports survey is disappointing. While we respect Consumer Reports, we disagree with their findings. 98% of Surface Pro 4 users and Surface Book users say they are satisfied with their device.”

Unfortunately for Microsoft its recent track record may turn consumers away, regardless of the report’s legitimacy. The world’s leading computer software company has been consistently criticised for its poor customer service, with an average score of one star (out of five) from over 700 reviews on Consumer Affairs.

It recently failed to gain traction in the smartphone market, with its ‘windows phone’ OS bowing out after only five years due to poor sales. It sold just 110 million units during that time, compared to 4.5 billion IOS and Android devices. Users cited poor app and company support for the device’s demise.

With Microsoft ramping up its production of its own laptops and PCs, the findings from Consumer Reports are a significant inconvenience for a company that is trying to find a standing in the hardware market.

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