Microsoft's Surface hits trouble

November 16, 2012 | 11:09

Tags: #microsoft-surface #surface #surface-pro #surface-rt #tablet #touch-cover #windows-rt

Companies: #asus #hp #microsoft #motorola

Microsoft's Surface tablets, its first attempt at creating an ARM-based tablet, have come under fire since launch for allegedly poor build quality, a lack of usable space, and Wi-Fi connectivity issues.

The Surface tablets, built by Microsoft and running the cut-down Windows RT operating system on ARM architecture system-on-chip processors, launched to a great fanfare alongside Windows 8. Due to be followed by Surface Pro devices, which replace the ARM chips with Intel x86 processors and Windows RT with Windows 8, the tablets are Microsoft's first real foray into the tablet market as a hardware vendor.

It's true that Surface boasts some clever features - the Touch Cover, for example, adds a touch-sensitive membrane keyboard to the inner surface which allows the device to be used like a laptop - but early adopters are complaining of issues with their new devices.

A thread on the Microsoft Community site points to multiple issues with connecting the device to Wi-Fi networks, with numerous users stating that the connection is unreliable and requires the device to be rebooted when the link is lost. Other users have found their Touch Cover keyboards splitting open after a single day of use.

Microsoft is also being targeted legally over the Surface. Papers filed at the Superior Court of Los Angeles earlier this week by laywer Andrew Sokolowski, an unhappy Surface customer, see Microsoft accused of misleading buyers with claims of 32GB storage capacity while taking up almost half that space in operating system files and pre-installed applications. Motorola, too, is getting in the act, extending a patent infringement lawsuit brought against Microsoft for the Xbox 360 games console to cover the Surface too and demanding 2.25 per cent of revenue generated from the device.

Even Microsoft's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, admits that things aren't going according to plan. Speaking to la Parisien, Ballmer stated that sales for the tablets 'are starting modestly,' while pressure from the company's own partners - including HP, which has publicly derided Surface, and Asus, which has undercut Microsoft's pricing with its own VivoTab RT tablet - is mounting.

In short: Microsoft's big tablet gamble is proving difficult for the company, but it could still pull things out of the bag - providing it patches the software flaws and fixes the splitting issue. Oh, and takes a second look at the iPad-matching pricing structure. And figures out a way to keep its software customers on-side...
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