Consumer Reports Pulls Purchase Recommendation for Microsoft Surface Devices

After previously giving four Microsoft Surface devices a purchase "recommendation" status, Consumer Reports today has pulled that status from the Microsoft products. The publication said that because of "poor predicted reliability" in comparison with rival brands, it can no longer recommend any Surface laptops or tablets to consumers.

The decision specifically targets four Microsoft Surface devices, including the Surface Book (128GB and 512GB versions) and the Surface Laptop (128GB and 256GB versions). Although only four devices are losing their previously designated "recommended" status, Consumer Reports pointed out that its inability to recommend Microsoft Surface products extends across the company's laptop and tablet devices, including the Surface Pro.


As usual, Consumer Reports based its decision on a survey conducted by its subscribers and the devices they own and use each day, this time focusing on over 90,000 Microsoft products purchased between 2014 and early 2017. The study found that an estimated 25 percent of Microsoft laptops and tablets will "present their owners with problems" as soon as the end of the second year of ownership.

In its findings, the publication said the differences between the breakage rates of Microsoft devices and other brands were "statistically significant."
Microsoft’s estimated breakage rate for its laptops and tablets was higher than most other brands’. The differences were statistically significant, which is why Microsoft doesn’t meet CR’s standards for recommended products. The surveys are conducted annually. Microsoft defended the reliability of its laptops and tablets.
Originally, multiple Microsoft Surface products performed well in Consumer Reports' lab testing, but as time has passed and as more data has been collected a reliability issue has come into question. Survey respondents mentioned device startup problems, unexpected freezes or shut downs, and unresponsive touch screens, all occurring well after the devices were purchased.

Microsoft gave the following statement in an email sent to Consumer Reports regarding the new findings:
“Microsoft’s real-world return and support rates for past models differ significantly from Consumer Reports’ breakage predictability,” Microsoft said in an emailed statement. “We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation.”
Late last year, Apple was also denied a purchase recommendation from Consumer Reports for its 2016 MacBook Pro, because battery life "varied dramatically" from one trial to another. After working together to find the source of the issue at hand -- which Apple discovered to be a bug in a hidden Safari setting -- Consumer Reports reversed its decision and gave the new MacBook Pro devices a recommended purchase status.


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Microsoft Executive Says iPad Pro Was Apple’s Response to Surface

Microsoft executive Ryan Gavin this week suggested Apple released the iPad Pro in response to its Surface devices, per Business Insider.


"When Surface initially launched, everyone was skeptical, including them," said Gavin, general manager of Surface commercial devices at Microsoft. "And then they followed, and the iPad Pro is a clear example of that."

Microsoft positions the latest Surface Pro, released on Thursday, as a "best-in-class laptop" with the "versatility of a studio and tablet."

The new Surface Pro features Intel's latest Kaby Lake processors and up to 13.5 hours of battery life on a single charge. The tablet-notebook hybrid can be configured with up to a 1TB SSD, up to 16GB RAM, and up to Intel Iris Plus 640 graphics, with a USB 3.0 port, microSD card reader, and Mini DisplayPort.

During a 2012 earnings call, when asked to comment on why the MacBook Air and iPad would not eventually converge, Apple CEO Tim Cook argued that combining the products would result in compromises.

"You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator but those won't be pleasing to the user," said Cook, a comment that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella poked fun at four years later, alluding to the iPad Pro.

"I mean, take even Surface," said Nadella, speaking to The Australian Financial Review. "Three years ago, the two-in-one as a form factor was questioned. Does anybody need one? And now guess what, even our competition has decided that it's not a refrigerator and a toaster but it's actually a two-in-one."

While the iPad and Mac remain two fundamentally different products, the iPad Pro is Apple's closest attempt at a two-in-one hybrid device.

Apple released the original iPad Pro with a large 12.9-inch display and Smart Keyboard in November 2015, over three years after Microsoft launched its first Surface tablet with a 10.6-inch display and detachable keyboard.


Cook has said the iPad Pro is a notebook or desktop computer replacement for "many, many people," adding that "they will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones."

As for Microsoft following Apple? "We don't really look at Apple," said Gavin.


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Microsoft Says New Surface Pro is 1.7× Faster Than iPad Pro With 35% More Battery Life

Microsoft today introduced the new Surface Pro, choosing that name over Surface Pro 5, at a media event in Shanghai, China.


Microsoft said the new Surface Pro delivers up to 13.5 hours of battery life on a single charge, a 50 percent increase over the Surface Pro 4 and 35 percent more battery life than the iPad Pro's advertised 10 hours.

The notebook-tablet hybrid features Intel's latest Kaby Lake processors, including Core m3, i5, and i7 chips depending on the model. Microsoft says the high-end Surface Pro with a Core i7 processor is 2.5× faster than the Surface Pro 3 and 1.7× faster than the iPad Pro with Apple's own A9X chip.


The new Surface Pro has a refined design with cleaner lines and curved edges, a "visually softer" camera, and an improved hinge with a 165º range of motion allows it to be placed in Studio Mode.

It's also the lightest Surface Pro ever, starting at 1.7 lbs. By comparison, the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro weigh 0.96 lbs and 1.57 lbs respectively.

The new Surface Pro continues to have a 12.3-inch display with 267 pixels per inch, compared to 264 PPI for both the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Microsoft said its custom PixelSense technology means that colors on the new Surface Pro will be "more vibrant, precise, and impactful than ever before."

The new Surface Pro and Signature Type Covers will be available for pre-order later today in the United States and select other markets at the Microsoft Store, Microsoft.com, BestBuy.com, and JD.com. The new Surface Pro will ship on June 15 in 25 countries. Pricing starts at $799.99 in the United States.

Surface Pro models with LTE Advanced will be available later this year. The new Surface Pen will be available in the coming weeks.


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Microsoft Surface Beats iPad in Design, Productivity, and Accessory Use in New J.D. Power Study

The Microsoft Surface has been ranked the highest in overall consumer satisfaction, and six points above Apple's iPad in second place, according to J.D. Power's 2017 U.S. Tablet Satisfaction Study. This marks the first top spot win for Microsoft in all six years that J.D. Power has published the Tablet Satisfaction Study, with the company earning a total 855 satisfaction score out of a potential 1,000 points.

The J.D. Power U.S. Tablet Satisfaction Study measures customer satisfaction in the tablet market by looking at five areas: performance (28 percent); ease of operation (22 percent); features (22 percent); styling and design (17 percent); and cost (11 percent). The study accounts for 2,238 tablet owners who have owned their current device for less than one year, with participants being questioned between October and December 2016.

With these rankings, Microsoft has received the designation as "among the best" on the market, while Apple at 849 points is "better than most."


According to J.D. Power, Microsoft's win this year "is largely due to its top rankings in the features and styling & design factors." The company earned top marks in categories related to the variety of pre-loaded applications, internet connectivity, and availability of manufacturer-supported accessories. This last category highlights the Surface's versatility, according to consumers, who reportedly "have the highest incidences of accessory use" with Microsoft Surface when compared to competitors.

Specifically, the Microsoft Surface's stylus saw a 48 percent usage rate in comparison to 27 percent of the industry average, while the tablet's add-on keyboard had a 51 percent usage rate in comparison to just a 14 percent industry average. Rounding out the Surface's pros were its variety of input/output ports (like a microSD card slot, USB 3.0, and 3.5mm headphone jack) and amount of internal storage available.
“The Microsoft Surface platform has expanded what tablets can do, and it sets the bar for customer satisfaction,” said Jeff Conklin, vice president of service industries at J.D. Power. “These tablet devices are just as capable as many laptops, yet they can still function as standard tablets. This versatility is central to their appeal and success.”
Microsoft also beat Apple in areas like the size of the tablet, quality of materials used, and attractiveness of tablet design. Microsoft's customers who are using the Surface Pro line of tablets are said to largely be early adopters (51 percent), younger than the customers of its competitors, and "more likely to consider productivity features as important." Microsoft customers tend to list productivity-related tasks as "very important" in comparison to industry average, like emailing, word processing, and banking.


Overall, J.D. Power found that customer satisfaction with their tablets is rising, with the study average sitting at 841 and increasing 21 index points from the six-months-ago iteration of the study. Customers are also tending to choose large screens, with satisfaction at 869 points for customers with screens measuring 10 inches or more, 850 points for screens 8-10 inches or more, and 824 for screens less than 8 inches.

More key findings include:


  • Driving the selection process: Lower price and past experience are the most commonly cited reasons for tablet selection among customers (22% each). Reputation is next at 19%.
  • Data plans increase satisfaction: Nearly one-third (32%) of customers have a data plan with their tablet. Overall satisfaction among customers with a data plan is 863 vs. 834 among those without such a plan.

    Apple has moved up and down J.D. Power's Tablet Satisfaction Study throughout the years, earning the top spot on some iterations of the study, while falling back down a few months later in others. Previous first place holders include Amazon and its Fire Tablets, as well as Samsung. When it's on top, Apple has used J.D. Power's ratings in numerous web campaigns in the past.


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  • Microsoft Follows Apple By Hiking Price of Surface Book Laptops in the U.K.

    Microsoft has increased the price of its Surface Book laptops in the United Kingdom, following the impact of the country's decision to leave the European Union on the pound sterling (via TechCrunch).

    Previously, the company had limited its cost adjustments to enterprise products, but the significant drop in the strength of the pound since the E.U. referendum last June has now seen Microsoft follow Apple's lead and hike the prices of its consumer laptops.


    The price rises mean the base model of the Surface Book in the U.K. now costs £150 more at £1,449 ($1,800), putting it at the same price as the base model of a 13-inch MacBook Pro sans Touch Bar.

    The price changes, which came into effect today, only affect products and services purchased by individuals, or organizations without volume licensing contracts.
    "In response to a recent review we are adjusting the British pound prices of some of our hardware and consumer software in order to align to market dynamics," said a Microsoft spokeswoman.
    Back in October, Apple raised sterling prices for its entire Mac line-up by around 25 percent. The cost of a 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro went from £999 to £1,249 overnight, despite being superseded by a brand new model starting at £1,449. Similar price increases were seen across aging Mac mini, iMac, and Mac Pro lines, while just last month, Apple also increased the price of iOS apps by the same percentage.

    Microsoft has repeatedly positioned the Surface Book as an alternative laptop for newcomers and unsatisfied MacBook owners, with time-limited "trade-up" offers for disillusioned Mac owners and TV ads describing capabilities of the Surface Book as things a Mac "just can't do".


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    Microsoft Says ‘Disappointment’ of New MacBook Pro Has More People Switching to Surface Than Ever Before

    Microsoft has announced November was its best month ever for consumer Surface sales. In a blog post, the company said more people are switching from Macs to Surface devices than ever before following the "disappointment" of the new MacBook Pro, particularly among professional users.

    surface-book-vs-new-macbook-pro
    More people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before. Our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever, and the combination of excitement for the innovation of Surface coupled with the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro – especially among professionals – is leading more and more people to make the switch to Surface, like this. It seems like a new review recommending Surface over MacBook comes out daily. This makes our team so proud, because it means we’re doing good work.
    Shortly after the new MacBook Pro launched, Microsoft launched a promotion offering MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners up to $650 credit towards a new Surface Book or Surface Pro 4. Microsoft also unveiled the Surface Studio in October, and the all-in-one desktop has been met with positive reviews.

    Microsoft's Surface Book starts at $1,499, the same price as Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro with a standard row of function keys. Touch Bar-equipped models start at $1,799 for 13-inch models and $2,399 for 15-inch models.

    Related Roundup: MacBook Pro
    Tags: Microsoft, Microsoft Surface
    Buyer's Guide: MacBook Pro (Buy Now)

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    Microsoft CEO Stokes Surface Phone Rumors With ‘Ultimate Mobile Device’ Comments

    Satya NadellaMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella has stoked speculation this week that Redmond is prepping a new line of smartphones under the Surface brand for launch in early 2017.

    In an interview with the Australian Financial Review published on Monday, Nadella said the company was conducting innovative research that would ensure it continued to have a presence in the smartphone market. However, rather than follow a present trend, Microsoft would attempt to re-define the field in a single-handed pursuit of the "ultimate mobile device".

    Underlining his philosophy, Nadella said that the company would not launch into a device category without bringing something different to the table, because it was more interested in how individuals and organizations were using devices, and less in the devices themselves.
    "We don't want to be driven by just envy of what others have, the question is, what can we bring? That's where I look at any device form factor or any technology, even AI," he said. "We will continue to be in the phone market not as defined by today's market leaders, but by what it is that we can uniquely do in what is the most ultimate mobile device."
    Rumors of a "Surface Phone" that would complement the popular Surface Book and the highly praised Surface Studio have been bubbling away for a while. Some rumors suggest a device running Windows 10 Mobile OS, others predict a range of devices, some of which could sport a keyboard flip case reminiscent of Blackberry phones. Meanwhile, several observers have pointed to the HP Elite x3 – part smartphone, part mini PC – as a potential indicator of where the company could take its mobile ambitions, possibly as soon as early next year.

    The introduction of a Surface Phone would represent a bold return to the smartphone market for Microsoft, after its consumer phone ambitions fell flat following the company's Nokia mobile acquisition over two years ago. Microsoft subsequently laid off hundreds of employees tied to its smartphone business in May, suggesting the company had all but given up on the consumer phone market.


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