Where is my Microsoft Surface? Here's what we know

Where is my Microsoft Surface? Here's what we know

Summary: Microsoft's Surface RT has launched, but most have yet to receive their tablet, despite promises from the software giant. From a ZDNet crowdsourced effort, here's what we know.


Last week, we asked ZDNet readers to get in touch in order to work out why so many of you have not yet received delivery of your Surface RT tablets.

Despite Microsoft's promise to have Surface RT tablets delivered by October 26, many have been left confused, angry, and annoyed -- to use your words -- by a series of mistaken emails, false promises, and poor communication.

While Microsoft representatives had consistently said that the Surface RT would be "shipped to arrive on October 26," the release date of Windows 8, it turns out they would in fact be "dispatched" on October 26, and would take a few working days to arrive.

Three non-working days later, thanks to the weekend, we can report back the following facts and figures from our human 'big data' analysis. The chances are your Surface RT is either still in a Microsoft warehouse still, or it's on its way to you as you read this.

Thanks to the feedback from you, the readers, we have forfeited our weekends in order to break down the numbers, words and feedback by hand here at ZDNet HQ (because we didn't have the budget to rent out a supercomputer for the day). In doing so, we discovered some interesting trends.

(Side note: we posted our call for help at 11 a.m. U.K. time on Friday. We decided to close the feedback at 12 a.m. midnight on Saturday for two reasons: firstly, the response rate had slowed down significantly, and secondly it takes time to break down the data and make pretty graphs.)

Here's what we've discovered.

1. Common feelings, emotions, and thoughts


We stripped out any personal information from the emails, blog comments and tweets identified as Surface RT buyers and threw the remaining feedback into a word cloud. We identified common trends -- many of you complained at poor communication, a series of mistakenly sent emails, and having to take a day off work to stay in at home to receive delivery -- so we categorized these and tallied them up. If a particular phrase (or any combination of) turned up, we added that to the tally.

More than 20 percent of you complained about a "mistaken email" from Microsoft, confirming that the delivery date had changed, and more often than not a follow-up backtracking email claiming the previous email was a mistake. 10 percent of you complained that Microsoft's communication was "poor" or there was "no communication" at all. 9 percent complained of having no shipment or tracking data, or their Surface RT tablet had not appeared in the online system. 

7 percent complained of a "delay", and another 7 percent complained that Microsoft's Twitter account was "poor." Around 5 percent told us they had to "spent all day at home," while percent had contacted Microsoft and had been told that the software giant was "unable to meet demand" of the Surface RT tablet. More on that later.

Breaking down emotions, feelings and adjectives, 5 percent indicated "disappointment," while 2 percent indicated they were "angry" or "annoyed." 1 percent of respondents said they were "less likely to recommend Microsoft" as a result of the shipping debacle. 

Other smaller, one-off comments included users feeling "deceived" and that Microsoft had "failed," or was "misleading." However, some remained "excited" and said the delays were "tolerable."

2. Popular choice: Surface RT (32GB) with Touch Cover


Out of the valid data we received, we again believe 80 percent of all feedback received indicated they had bought a Surface RT device. However, much of the data received showed an interesting breakdown of who bought what.

43 percent bought the Surface RT (32GB) with a Touch Cover. Second to that, 26 percent opted for more storage by buying the Surface RT (64GB) with Touch Cover. In total, 8 percent opted for the Surface RT (32GB) only, however 23 percent did not specify which model they bought.

Overwhelmingly, 69 percent bought a Surface RT tablet with a Touch Cover. This suggests that more than two-thirds of buyers will be using their touch-enabled Surface RT tablet with the accompanying keyboard. Interesting, no?

3. Most may (or have already) canceled their Surface RT order


Out of those who had replied to whether or not buyers are considering canceling or have already canceled their order, 69 percent said they would. However, we didn't ask for a time period in which they would cancel their order. 

However, many had indicated that should their Surface RT tablet not arrive "within the week" or before their last-checked scheduled date -- many have indicated, as seen above, that their order would arrive on November 1-2 -- they would cancel their order. We averaged out that many were waiting for the end of this working week, November 2, if they had not received their order. That said, a small minority of respondents said they would be canceling today if they had not received delivery.

4. Most buyers bought early


17 percent of all respondents bought their new Surface RT tablet in the first 24 hours of pre-orders opening on October 16. We wanted to include an initial two-day period to take into account any time-zone differences for pre-ordering.

A further 17 percent of all buyers bought a Surface RT device in the following three days, which dropped to 5 percent over the first weekend, and 3 percent in the final days leading up to the Windows 8 and Surface RT launch.

In pre-ordering early, many Europeans will have been waiting the longest for their Surface RT tablet to arrive. More on that in the next graphic.

5. Most feedback came from European buyers


As expected, many U.K. and European Union residents got in touch to complain that their Surface RT devices had not been delivered, despite assurances from Microsoft that buyers would be in receipt of the tablet on October 26.

There was an equal 30 percent split between respondents from the United Kingdom and those who did not disclose which country they bought the device in. We looked at feedback clues and hints, such as looking for U.S. dollar signs for mentioned prices, and email address domain suffixes, which didn't always end in a definitive result. If we weren't sure, we put them in the "unspecified" category.

9 percent of buyers bought the device in Germany, while 2 percent were resident in the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Switzerland respectively. 

However, 23 percent of respondents bought the device in the United States.

Adding up the figures, a total of 47 percent of respondents are resident in the European Union, excluding the United States and Switzerland. (Despite its location, Switzerland it is not a member of Europe. Plus, it a mere 2 percent deduction doesn't dramatically or even marginally alter the majority figure.)

It's important to note that many were in countries where the Surface RT was not being sold locally, therefore many had bought the tablet online from the Microsoft U.K. or Microsoft Germany. 

What's also interesting here is that many got in touch from the United States to say their deliveries had already arrived or were "in the truck" ready for delivery that day. Not all U.S. residents received their Surface RT tablet on October 26 when they were first promised, however.

Let's break this down a little further with the next graph.

6. Surface RT tablets on track for early November deliveries


The majority that got in touch noted a "mistaken email" sent by Microsoft which points to a later delivery date than October 26 as first promised. 30 percent of all respondents said Microsoft would deliver on November 1-2, up to a week after the assured delivery date.

There was an even 19 percent split between those who had already received their Surface RT device and those who were told at their last email update that their devices would be shipped on October 26, or in the following three days. A further 10 percent were told they would see their Surface RT tablets in their hands on October 30-31.

However, 4 percent were told to expect a delivery on November 3 or later. The raw data suggests these buyers are from areas in Europe who bought a Surface RT tablet through a Microsoft online store via another country.

There appears to be a trend here, looking at the raw data. In short, most U.S. buyers received their tablet on the date given, while most European buyers did not. 

While the majority of U.S. buyers who got in touch said they were in receipt of their tablets, only a minority were not. Most European buyers received the same "delivery by October 26" assurance, but the majority did not receive their tablet on the specified date. 

From the feedback, many told us that after speaking to Microsoft, the software giant received more orders than first expected. We can't comment on foreign shipments from China -- which is where some suggested the tablets were coming from, thanks to the pasting their online order tracking data into emails -- but shipments-by-sea from China to the U.S. take less time than from China to Europe, it's worth noting.

7. Many contacted Microsoft for support, queries


While we did not specifically ask if Surface RT buyers have contacted Microsoft directly, we received dozens of reports that buyers had phoned Microsoft to ask where their Surface RT device was.

87 percent of respondents who said they had contacted Microsoft had called them at least once. Looking at the data, out of those who had called Microsoft, the majority had called them "multiple times." Some had opted to contact the Microsoft Twitter account instead, or not at all. 

8. The feedback volume took us (and our inboxes) by surprise


And last but certainly not least, it's worth noting how much feedback we actually got. 

We received close to 400 emails, blog comments and tweets in total in the half-day we left the doors open on our feedback loop. Out of that, @mbrit's Twitter account took the brunt of it, while both of our inboxes were flooded with responses. The blog comments section also yielded some very useful feedback.

All in all, 65 percent of you tweeted your concerns and feedback, while 24 percent of you commented. 11 percent of the feedback came from valid data in emails.

It's important to note that not all of the emails, blog comments and tweets contained valid data, and while the feedback was appreciated and included vital, previously unbroken news, around 37 percent of the feedback did not include any valid data to count. (Some of which simply aired frustrations and called Microsoft names... for instance.)

In spite of the valid data figure, approximately 80 percent of all feedback received indicated they had bought a Surface RT device. With that, we were still able to extrapolate a vast amount of interesting data, based on the pointers we were looking for.

Topics: Microsoft, Big Data, Tablets, EU, United Kingdom, Windows

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  • Understimated

    Based on what I'm seen in social networks it seems like Microsoft never expected the Surface to receive such a tremendous demand. While other manufacturers are also shipping tablets, if you go to any tech forum or blog and there is just a handful of people who ordered something other than the Surface, in my experience I just saw one guy who ordered an Ativ tablet (and regrets it), the vast mayority bought Surface tablets and a lot of them have already received them.

    The main problem, communication, would it be Apple most likely there would be an official communication about the situation apologizing for the tremendous demand they have.
    • Got mine Friday morning

      I ordered on the 16th and received it on Friday morning around 9:30 AM in Indianapolis, IN
      • I got mine as promised...

        It does have 2 border pixels that are dead, so I will return, but I have to play some before returning!

        • QAonCall...I'd return it asap............

          How is the sticky key fad? that many people are complaining about?
          Over and Out
          • Fad?

            Hope it's a fad.

            Hopefully it's a software fix.

            Hadn't heard about it b4 now though.
      • Same here

        Received mine on Friday as expected. I did notice my order status as of Thursday still showed my order as "in process" but as of 7AM Pacific it showed as "In Transit" with shipping details. It was shipped from Ohio if I remember right and delivered via Fedex by 2PM Friday. So far i'm impressed with this product. This is the IPAD killer. The Win 8 tab experience is by far the best I've ever had. It feels more immersive...it's what a tablet should be. Apple and Android buyers beware if you opt for those toys your going to miss out on the best experience to date! As for the shipping delays let's give MS a chance to sort this out. This was a huge launch and I'm sure they'll make a formal announcement soon apologizing for the delays. I can tell you this much at least the MAPS work and you won't be redirected to a 3rd party solution.
    • Got Mine!

      It arrived Friday morning @ 10:30 AM.
      • Same for me - arrived right on time

        Friday morning @ 10:30 am, right as promised. The tablet is perfect, and Microsoft did a really nice job with the packaging. Very slick.

        The touch keyboard is really great. I did not require ANY time to get used to it. I was able to type quickly right away, with no learning curve.

        I love how the tablet syncs with Windows 8 perfectly too. I changed my desktop on my PC, and the Surface tablet's desktop changed almost instantly. Very well done Microsoft.
    • Apple never apologizes for anything

      M Wagner
      • Except they did

        They appologised for the Apple Maps debacle.
        • They did.

          And (kind-of) Antennagate. Apple has apologized a fair amount of times over the years -- just not always as plainly as saying "sorry." Sometimes you have to read between the lines.
        • As they should!

          Apple should apologize for the maps debacle. They took away Google maps and replaced it with a tu_rd. The other thing they should apologize for is selling people a 3rd gen iPad only to replace it a few months later with an identicle product with a faster CPU and other enhancements. What is THAT all about!? Talk about feeling ripped off!
    • Apple manages the shipment of millions well

      Apple regularly manges the shipment of millions of devices and the satisfaction of the customers.

      I had previously wondered about all those who line up to get an Apple device.

      With the iPhone 5 launch I ended up in the queue on saturday. I learnt how the queue works, it is very well managed.

      I did pre-order my iPhone 5 and didn't receive it. Reason is I didn't order it from Apple, I ordered it from Optus, and their online order system failed badly.

      Optus had created an order - notified me of the order, allocated it to the wrong service and closed the order.

      Meanwhile I could have lined up at Apple, been allocated a device even whilst round the block at the end of the queue and known I was not wasting my time.

      Or I could have pre-ordered from Apple directly and got my phone with no queueing.

      Shipping times from Apple were updated as order levels against stock changed.

      So no - Apple wouldn't have failed to ship then given excuses after the fact, they allow for an unknown demand and their systems can manage stock and production levels, even with serious disruptions in manufacture that they had.

      So runner - can't you just accept that Apple can manage their fulfillment chain and MS clearly can't.

      Pretending Apple makes excuses cause MS failed is lame.
  • Riiiiight

    No one I know in the USA is asking that...evidently for good reason. It looks horribly un-intuitive from the youtube vids.
    Unlicensed Dremel
    • All I see is happy faces

      Hosnestly, the only negative video I saw was from a guy that had issues with Word and returned it, and those have been addressed already.

      I mean, seriously, Apple goes ahead breaks an essential app (Maps) and media does not call for people to return products, I think the problem is been extrapolated, Apple also has delays in their shipments and you don't see this immense amount of coverage
      • Quite Suprised Too

        I was honestly suprised, by the way most of these so called bloggers and online media homes, trying to paint a negative picture of the office issues (already fixed) and any slight thing being over amplified. Apple does worst with the map app...(hoped no one had an accident as a result of the map...thats on the lighter side), and no one call for Tim to be crucified nor people should return the phones.

        I was suprised that ZDNET could run severally this article (Three days in the life of a once and former Microsoft Surface RT user), just as the surface was being launched and its still being encouraged. CNET too, is not very forgiving at all.

        I have come to a conclusion its either Apple has a way among these online Journalist or someone is asking for a pound of flesh somewhere.

        I expect the likes of zdnet, cnet & Co, should be supportive of new ideas and things that should push the envelope of innovation forward and not to make themselves look like taking side.

        Whichever way, i have made up my mind to buy and give out several Surface tablet, irrespective of what these guys are writing.
        • The map App

          The map app works great for me. I love the turn by turn navigation! It is brand new so its not perfect but it has taken me everywhere I needed to go. Its the 1.0 version so it can only get better. People tend to forget how horrible the Google map app was that this replaces. The navigation with it was horrible and they had 3+ years to fix it and did nothing. No idea why but I imagine it was so they could save the good stuff for their devices. Makes since I suppose from a business standpoint.
      • Take the blinders off

        First, Apple did not break Maps. Their version works great and recent surveys of people that actually own and use iOS 6 devices the majority (though a small majority) rated Apple's maps as better than what Google provided in iOS5. If you don't like Apple's maps they didn't prevent users from using Google Maps or any of the other options available so why would the media call for people to return them? I don't recall the media calling for Surface owners to return them. This is actually the only article I have seen about the delays yet how many dozens if not hundreds of articles did we see about Apple maps. Correct, Apple does have delays in shipping when they sell out, doesn't sound like that was the issue here was it?
        • If so many people are happy with iOS maps

          Then what did Apple appologize for? And the phrase unable to meet demand does sound like it was sold out. If they weren't sold out, then they would be able to meet demand.
          NoMore MicrosoftEver
        • those users don't know jack

          They're probably using google maps and think its apple maps.
          If it works so wonderfully there wouldn't be so many people looking for work arounds to get google maps.