Internal Microsoft memo attempts to downplay Consumer Reports Surface reliability survey

Microsoft Surface Pro 2017

In a recent memo obtained by prominent Microsoft insider Paul Thurrott, the Redmond, Washington-based company says it’s preparing to release data that contradicts the recent Consumer Reports study that suggests its Surface computers are among the least reliable PCs currently on the market.

“It’s important for us to always learn more from out customers and how they view their ownership journey with our products,” says Surface head Panos Panay in the memo. “Feedback like this stings, but pushes us to obsess more about our customers.”

Panay goes on to acknowledge that the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book suffered from “some quality issues” at launch.

At the time, Thurrott was told by multiple senior Microsoft officials that the issues were related to Intel’s then new Skylake processors — the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book were among the first laptops to ship with Skylake chipsets — which led Microsoft to place the blame on Intel.

However, Thurrott says a Microsoft source later told him that the blame rested on the Surface-specific drivers and settings the Surface team shipped alongside the two devices.

Whatever caused the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book issues, Panay says in the memo that his team worked “tirelessly” to ensure that subsequent launches — specifically the launch of the Surface Laptop, Surface Pro, Surface Studio and Surface Book with Performance Base — led to more reliable devices.

Panay concludes, however, that his team’s efforts were “unfortunately not reflected in the results of this [Consumer Reports] survey.”

As Thurrott suggests, it’s likely that Microsoft believes Consumer Reports’ recent survey is unfairly weighted toward Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book users who experienced issues with their PCs at launch.

In defence of the Surface line, Panay says that ‘incidents per unit’ across the entire Surface portfolio is “extremely low.” Moreover, he adds that the metric has improved “with every device launch.”

He also adds that return rates have decreased over the past 12 months. At worst, the Surface Book suffered a 17 percent return rate, according to data accompanying the memo.

Lastly, Panay cites the Surface portfolio’s net promoter score, which does not measure reliability, instead offering insight into whether a consumer would recommend a product they bought to a friend or family member, as further evidence that consumers believe the company’s Surface computers to be reliable.

Together, Microsoft’s data suggests the company Surface lineup may well have had reliability issues in the past, but that the company has since addressed those issues.

The memo is available in full on Paul Thurrott’s website.