In an expose on Microsoft’s response to Consumer Report’s Surface Reliability claims, Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott made some pretty significant claims about Microsoft’s hardware unit and the reasons why its current range of devices have fallen somewhat flat when it comes to innovative features.
Owners of the last generation of the Microsoft Surface range (Surface Pro 4, Surface Book) would know about persistent complaints of power management and reliability issues which have, via word of mouth, been lain at the feet of Intel’s Skylake processors.
According to Paul Thurrott, this was a big lie which was being spread by senior Microsoft officials, even internally.
Since then, however, another trusted source at Microsoft has provided with a different take on this story. Microsoft, I’m told, fabricated the story about Intel being at fault. The real problem was Surface-specific custom drivers and settings that the Microsoft hardware team cooked up.
The lie came to light when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella met with Lenovo last year and asked them how it was dealing with the Skylake reliability issues and was told that no-one except Microsoft was having these issues.
The revelation of internal software incompetence caused Microsoft to cancel or delay more ambitious products last year, resulting in the current boring generation of slightly upgraded Surface Pro (tellingly without the driver-nightmare USB-C/Thunderbolt ports) and the even more boring Surface Laptop.
Thurrott notes “more forward-leaning products like a new Surface Hub, code-named Aruba, and a mobile device code-named Andromeda, were pushed back, in the former’s case to 2019.”
The good news is that Microsoft appears to have gotten on top of the issue internally, but one wonders whether the company’s own confidence in launching innovative products such as the detachable Surface Book, which had a 16% return rate due to reliability issues, has been dented for a long time going forward, and whether this killed interesting products such as their foldable phablet.