Will Surface be the PC Microsoft can be proud of?

At Microsoft’s BUILD 2011 conference late last year, I had an impromptu discussion with a Microsoft employee who knew a thing or two behind the scenes building Windows PCs. It turns out there’s more things that go wrong than meets the eye, often at Microsoft’s expense.

With today’s announcement of the Surface, hopefully Microsoft won’t have to put up with that for much longer. Microsoft will finally have the chance to enforce the quality control they’ve yearned for.

It should be no secret PC and device OEMs have been toying with product quality for their own cost purposes, and Microsoft along with end-users getting the short end of the stick.

The most recent documented example of this is the memory chip that Samsung changed without notice in the Focus Windows Phone which resulted in a delayed Mango update.

In the Windows PC space, quality control is the silent killer across individual hardware components and even drivers. According to the individual I spoke to, Microsoft has been frustratingly aware of quality assurance issues. And there was little Microsoft could do. They were at the mercy of their own ecosystem which has let them down over and over again.

The Samsung BUILD Windows 8 slates are another great example. Out of the 5 I’ve personally handled, 3 had major hardware issues. In one, the WiFi chip would fail every ~5 minutes. In another, the screen is loose from the bevel. Last but not least, the screen would randomly register ghost touches. Yes, I may have received “a bad batch”, but the fact they even left the factory floor is unacceptable.

With the Surface, Microsoft is in control. If the attention to detail on aesthetics, engineering and functionality so far is any indication, then Microsoft has a good chance to make sure every device that it puts in customers’ hands is going to be as reliable as an iPad.

That includes ensuring hardware errors are within acceptable limits, having reliable and performant drivers/firmware (& updates) to ensure the hardware performs at specification, and not burdening the out-of-box experience with marketing bloat-ware.

Even though Microsoft has not revealed who will actually manufacturer the Surface (it might even be spread across multiple vendors like the XBOX 360), I sincerely hope the Microsoft employee I spoke to will hold them to much higher standards than what has been allowed to slip by in the past.

If nothing else, they seem to have done a pretty good job at controlling the quality of magnesium so far.

14 insightful thoughts

  1. I have to agree, the OEMs have let Microsoft down time and time again and us as consumers. They dont seem to care too much about quality, nor design even when Apple is showing them how to do it on tablets, laptops and even all in one PCs. Microsoft has to make sure the Windows 8 tablet competes with the iPad, it must if it is to succeed, and to gain traction it has to be a better option for consumers and business users. I think it is….For business a windows 8 pro tablet is a no brainer, for high end power consumers, again a no brainer. But with general day to day tablet users, some of the features of Windows 8 and the Surface hardware become very compelling, surely grabbing market share from Apple.

    I think Microsoft in launching Surface has set a fire under the OEMs butts, which they will respond to. They no doubt will start to design better products and stop playing around with Android in the tablet market (after all they have nothing to show for that). Microsoft may well have re-ignited innovation from OEMs while at the same time, grabbing market share from Apple and confining Android to mobile phones only (which will no doubt damage Andoird share on the mobile phone market place too)


  2. I really like the prospects of the new Surface simply because of Microsoft’s track record in making great hardware.

    From mice to keyboards and cameras to consoles, every piece of Microsoft hardware that I’ve owned has been durable, well-made and stylish. And, after using a Windows Phone for almost two years, I’m convinced that Windows 8 will (finally) locate its true home on a tablet. Windows Phone and Windows 8 on PCs are both great, but Windows 8 will really sing on this new form factor.

  3. That 90 days after GA will hurt Surface sales for the Pro. I can’t wait to buy it. My laptop blew up. I need a replacement fast, but not sure I can wait until 2013 to get one.

    1. I can send you one of my old, (but still working) laptops if you like until you get the computer you want next year! đŸ˜‰

  4. If you need the capabilities of a laptop computer to get something done, I don’t know if the Surface will be the right kind of device to replace it. The ARM-based device will be a good choice if you only need the Tablet PC experience, but using the Intel-based one for software developing, for example? I just don’t know… a tablet is a tablet is a tablet.

  5. I only have one concern: Availability. If it is only restricted to the US & some areas of Europe to start with then it will die before it gets a chance to get going. That being said I want an Surface PRO really badly.

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