Microsoft's Sinofsky responds to complaint over Office 2013 on Surface RT

Microsoft's Sinofsky responds to complaint over Office 2013 on Surface RT

Summary: An emotional complaint from an early buyer of the Surface RT went viral, inspiring a long discussion of the issue on the popular Hacker News discussion board. That thread inspired a response from a very authoritative source.


Throughout the Windows 8 development cycle, Windows boss Steven Sinofsky has been a regular participant in comment threads on the Building Windows 8 blog, delivering often lengthy replies to complaints or suggestions in the blog’s comment section.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s also willing to sign in on other popular discussion forums and contribute an authoritative answer.

Case in point: This thread on Hacker News starts with a comment from a purported member of the Word team working on Office 2013. He’s responding to a vociferous complaint from a Microsoft MVP, for whom the killer issue was sluggish response from Word and other Office apps.

The self-identified Microsoft employee notes, correctly, that the issue is fixed with an update that was available the same day the Surface went on sale to the general public. But he then goes on to blame secrecy:

One of the challenges we had was that for a large majority of the product cycle we didn't even know about the Surface. We were looking at ARM early on, but the hardware we had was prerelease hardware from MSFT partners that had varying levels of performance.

That drew a predictably large number of comments, with a predictably negative tone. But one comment, added today by a user named stevesi, caught my eye:

This issue is known, intermittent and dependent on a number of factors. It has been addressed and an update is forthcoming.

This type of issue would be identical across NVIDIA based ARM PCs and large numbers of the reference platforms were available at the same time they have been available to external developers.

Developers on the Office team (and Word team) that needed to contribute to the ARM focused work had access to the tools and hardware needed, including Surface specific hardware. There was no shortage of knowledge, hardware, or communication.

That user handle, created earlier today, is consistent with the Twitter handle and other public accounts for Steven Sinofsky. I’m confident this comment is from Himself.

And indeed the author of the post that set off this brouhaha initially has now added an update confiming that he had not installed the final Office code. He won't be able to do so, given that he has already returned the device. Too bad, because he had already fallen in love with the hardware, going so far as to opine that the Surface RT "doesn’t just compete with the iPad – it bypasses the iPad in many ways that are significant and valuable for me."

Meanwhile, Microsoft can take at least a small bit of well-aimed flak for its decision to ship a Preview version of Office 2013 with the initial release of Windows RT on Surface. Although the update was available on the first day, my mailbag (and this post) suggest that the company didn’t do a good job of communicating both the need for this update and the mechanism for getting it installed.

If you’ve got a Surface, the update might appear automatically. It did on my Surface RT, as noted in this screenshot I captured last week.


If you’re not seeing the update, you can force it to install from the desktop version of Windows Update. Tap the Search charm, tap Settings, and enter Update as the search term. From the list of results, tap Install optional updates, where you should find the necessary update.  (You’ll find more details here.)

For what it’s worth, I never saw this issue in my testing on the Surface RT that I used for my review last week. Others obviously did. All the more reason to make sure you install that update as soon as possible.

Topics: Tablets, Hardware, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Do updates not show up in the store tile like they do on WP?

    Or do updates for desktop apps not also show up here? MS should have made any desktop apps searchable in the store also have a mechanism for getting update notifications and links through the store tile. And Win8 and Win8TR os updates should show up there too. Users should have a single notification area for W8+app updates.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Apps and store

      There are two desktop apps on RT that aren't from the Store. They cannot be updated through the store. Their updates arrive through Windows Update.
      • forgot

        Two major ones. Office and Internet Explorer.
        • good

          Tammy said I cant believe that someone able to earn $7490 in 4 weeks on the computer. have you seen this website..WWW.Ace16.comTRY it
      • This is correct

        The unique characteristics of the Desktop in Windows RT mean that the very small number of desktop apps (Office and Internet Explorer and accessories) receive their updates through Windows Update.

        The Store updater is strictly for built-in apps and third party apps that are packaged for delivery through the Windows Store.
        Ed Bott
        • On x86, is VStudio also Windws update?

          You would think it is but can nay one confirm?
          • I have had updates to Visual Studio

            using Windows Update. Though not before reading about an update I can install through MSDN.
      • Re: They cannot be updated through the store.

        Microsoft fragmentation strikes again.
    • Windows 8 Store tile shows the updates for the apps that purchased

      and installed from there. OTOH, apps that are not purchased from Windows 8 Store (desktop apps), even though they are listed in the Windows 8 Store, can't be updated from the Tile. Surface RT has two desktop apps Office RT and IE 10 (Desktop mode), they will be update from Windows Update. For that, just swite from right side of your surface and choose PC Settings, and scroll all the way down and you will see Windows Update. You could update your Surface RT from there.
      Ram U
    • Same as other mobile devices

      I don't know about WP, didn't use it yet, but on Android, apps are updated through the Market (Google Play now) and OS updates comes from somewhere else, I usually get a notification on my status bar and the update process does not take me through the Market app.

      Consider Office RT and IE10 Desktop as OS updates.
      • While true...

        The fact that you don't update Android from the store is one flaw in the Google process. They currently work with custom bootloaders for every machine, which kind of mixes up the OS and the machine-specific parts of the system. Apple does the same, but since they know the very small set of machines supported for each release, they can offer updates via the iTunes store.

        Microsoft has, in a sense, the best of both worlds -- they're using a traditional BIOS on the ARM machines, loading the OS onto flash disc storage, not in the NOR flash ROM -- like a PC, that's just a boot ROM (Android and iOS each keep part of the main OS in the NOR-flash, one reason they have way more free flash disc in the new product than Microsoft does). But this make it easy to update things piecemeal, apply service packs, etc. Could be done through the store, but it's rather moot, since on RT anyway, the only updates not via the store will be from Microsoft anyway. And there's no way to turn off the updater for these.

        The real interesting question is going forward: what happens for Windows 9? Store-based update, like Apple? Direct update from Microsoft, like today's Windows upgrades? OEM-only updates, like Android? Or none at all, buy a new device, as with Windows 7 Phone?
  • Glad I decided to hold off...

    After writing out the pros and cons of Surface RT, I'm glad I held off. I'll be picking mine up after the Holidays.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Have to agree

      I am holding off judgement until I have tested one but MS has a history of screwing things up and doing poor releases. It's the old "wait to the 2nd patch before buying" strategy with MS.

      I will say that people here are giving the general public way to much credit to their ability to know RT will not run legacy.

      I also fear that there are just too many "got yous" with the surface...keyboard not included, free Office for home only, confussing two versions, etc...
      • Mostly Right

        I am the almost proud owner of a Surface tablet. I DID know about LEGACY apps NOT working on it. But my tablet has behaved weirdly, including two total freezes. I know MSFT will correct these problems eventually with updates, but I am still disappointed in the way they go to market. I do like the video performance, the screen clarity, and the plethora of FREE music. I also like that I can print from it (couldn't on my iPad), and it handles all my doc. files, too. I can give praise for the Surface, but I reserve personal Kudos until the first Windows RT update. I think the average consumer might bide time until then.
        • Print from iPad

          What do you mean, you "can't" print from your iPad????????? You're not whining about medieval USB ports, are you? You can't install a 5 1/4" floppy in your iPad, either. Or a 56K modem. Or a steam engine.

          If clinging to the stone ages is your reason for buying a Microsoft "product," congratulations. You're there.
      • rushed out the door

        MS NEEDs for Win 8 and its associated products to be a hit. Not just a bunt to get on first base, but a hit it out of the park grand slam home run. MS has essentially bet its future on the transition to a next generation OS. Unfortunately, every article that I have read highlights the difficulties and the confusion with Win 8. Yes I get the difference between RT and PRO, between ARM and Intel, but isn't the selling point of WIN 8, one OS for all your devices? When people do post specific complaints, the replies highlight how to accomplish the goal in question? : just edit the registry, Use this keyboard shortcut , no you can't do that in RT. etc In short, power users will be able to use it, but Joe consumer is going to be throwing it against a wall after the first week.

        Yes, MS will get it right eventually, but I am not buying anything WIN 8 based this holiday season
  • Mr. Bott nailed it with this statement

    From the artice:
    "Meanwhile, Microsoft can take at least a small bit of well-aimed flak for its decision to ship a Preview version of Office 2013 with the initial release of Windows RT on Surface.

    Microsoft, what's the rush? It's too late for back to school and a bit early for Christmas. when you're as late to the tablet party as Microsoft is, you can't afford flak like this.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Apple ships Sri as "Beta" and nobody complains

      Double standard again. Appl€ gets away with shipping beta Sri and Maps and they get a pass.
      • Double standard?

        Perhaps, *if* I were an Apple fan.

        P.S. I'm not a fan of any multinational corp., including Apple, Microsoft and Google. They've all got their good and bad points and I neither love nor hate any of them.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Nope

        Apple didn't get a pass on these.. they're lately held up as "horrible things Steve Jobs never would have approved" in the press. Probably correct, too.