Microsoft boldly claims 99.999% reliability record for its newer Surface devices

Following criticism from Consumer Reports that you may recall from back in the summer, Microsoft has revealed a fresh statistic in defense of the reliability of its Surface devices, and it’s a bold claim indeed.

Ryan Gavin, who is General Manager, Microsoft Surface, told ZDNet that Surface machines were getting more and more reliable as time goes on, and that ‘reliability issues’ among the newer Surface devices were very rare indeed.

Gavin asserted: "We're talking about incidents per device of less than 0.001%."

In other words, fewer than one in 100,000 of these devices prove to be faulty.

The findings of Consumer Reports a few months back were at the other end of the scale, citing ‘two-year breakage rates’ of 25% across all (newer and older) Surface devices, although Microsoft was quick to defend itself at the time, and assert that ‘incidents per unit’ as tracked by the company itself were under 1%.

This latest claim is obviously going even further than that, and it’s certainly a startling figure, but there’s a caveat – when Gavin says newer Surface devices, he specifically cites the Surface Laptop and Surface Studio as examples, but there’s no mention of the Surface Pro (which also got a new model this year).

So a sprinkle or two from the salt shaker may be needed in this respect, and we can’t make too much judgment from the 0.001% figure, as exactly what it pertains to isn’t made clear.

And indeed no timeframe is mentioned as to when faults might crop up, although presumably the statistic covers a short observed period considering that the Surface Laptop was only launched in June.

Reliability rules

However, the overall message from Microsoft is clear enough: it’s working hard to make sure that Surface devices are increasingly reliable.

For some overall perspective drawn from older products, after the Consumer Reports figures had emerged in August, leaked figures from Microsoft running up to April of this year showed return rates of around 3% and 5% for the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book respectively.

Microsoft took serious issue with the methodology of the Consumer Reports study at the time, and Gavin still does, drawing a comparison with the evaluation of home appliances, and telling ZDNet that it was like asking: “‘Has your dishwasher behaved unexpectedly in the past two years?’ and if the answer was ‘yes’, you'd be deemed unreliable.”

And as we observed at the time, in fairness to Microsoft, it seemed that the Consumer Reports stats could also have been skewed by the initial high return rates on Surface Book and Pro 4 devices when they were first launched.

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