As customers fume, Microsoft promises Surface Pro 2 firmware fix ASAP

Some urge patience, but many have long lost it

Even as Microsoft promised to speed up work on a re-release for a flawed Surface Pro 2 firmware update, customers continued to damn the company for the fiasco.

Microsoft yanked the firmware update earlier this month, about a week after it shipped the non-security fixes on Dec. 10. Surface Pro 2 owners had complained that the update reduced their tablets' battery life and spontaneously changed how the devices went into or out of the power-saving sleep mode.

Originally, Microsoft said that it would re-release the firmware update "after the holidays," which the company confirmed should be interpreted as some point after New Years Day, or Jan. 1, 2014.

However, this week the Redmond, Wash. company revised its timeline. "We are working to release an alternative update package as soon as possible," a spokeswoman said via email on Thursday. She declined to be more specific about the re-release's availability, reiterating only that it would be ASAP.

Microsoft has not said whether the update will repair already-affected Surface Pro 2 tablets.

By the comments posted to Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 support forum, many owners had run out of patience.

"Come on Microsoft -- give us a date for release of a fix -- confirm what an update will fix and exactly when it will be available," said TrevM in a message posted Thursday on one of the longest support threads about the firmware problems. "My [Surface Pro 2] is now a major pain. All I want to do is use it and not spend hours trying to make it stable when this is the least I would expect!"

Some customers have returned their Surface Pro 2 tablets for replacements, or simply given up on the device.

"I'm quite fortunate that I had just purchased my machine 2 weeks ago," said someone who identified himself as Mario. "I took my 128GB model back and exchanged it for a new 128GB pre-update, and what a difference. It was night and day." "I am a consumer and accountant and dropped $1,100 on the Surface Pro 2 last month with my bonus money," a Computerworld reader reported via email Friday. "Now the thing won't turn on. I will bring it back to Best Buy." Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 2, its second-generation Intel-powered tablet, in late September.

It has had to pull flawed updates before -- in October, Microsoft yanked the Windows RT 8.1 update after customers reported it "bricked" their tablets -- but typically the firm reissues fixes within a few days.

The slower response to the Dec. 10 issues may have been due to engineering staff shortages during the holidays, the complexity of a fix or a combination of the two.

A few people took the problems in stride, and urged people to be patient. But others said the update had soured them on Microsoft and its 2-in-1 tablet.

"I think the question is no longer 'When does this get fixed?' It's been too long already," said beemr on Tuesday in another long thread. "Now the question is, 'How does Microsoft regain our trust?' It is absurd that they haven't released a firmware [update] that would at the very least just undo the Dec. 10 update. It would seem to me that the overheating (twice for me) and constant charging, draining, charging would take a toll on the lifespan of our SP2's. Microsoft needs to take ownership and extend its standard and Microsoft Complete warranties by at least another year."

As of Friday afternoon, Microsoft had not re-issued the update.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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