Will anyone get fired for buying Surface tablets?

Will anyone get fired for buying Surface tablets?

Summary: You know how no one ever got fired for buying IBM? I have a sense that it will be possible to get fired for buying Surface.

TOPICS: Windows, Tablets

Buying lots and lots of things

Let's say you run the IT function for a large business, and let's say you need to buy 1,000 desktops. You have two options:

Option a) You buy the machines from the same vendor you bought them from last time. That vendor's main business happens to be selling computer hardware into enterprises.

Option b) You buy them from a software company that has sold, in total, zero units of own-brand computers into enterprises, but does do a pretty good job of selling keyboards, mice, and game consoles.

This is really the problem with Surface. Windows 8 and Windows RT are risky enough propositions, without mixing in unproven hardware from an unproven vendor.

Don't forget that the Xbox Red Ring of Death was a thing. Try explaining that to your boss? "Jenkins, explain to me again why I've got a thousand members of staff who's new fangled Windows tablet thingies just go 'beep' when you turn them on? I told you we should have bought iPads!"

Not pretty.

Mind you - it's not just the hardware. Microsoft operates a massively competent and complex after-sales telephone and support operation, but can they turn that to hardware support? Being able to call on engineers to RDP into servers and fix Exchange is a different problem to dealing with a massive shipment of DOA devices arriving at your customer's door.

Personally, whereas in a small business I'd buy a few Surfaces because they're likely to be cool and turn a few heads ... anything more than, 50? No way.

(And that's if you can even get them - I wouldn't be surprised if the availability of the Surface ends up making them very exclusive.)

So - then what?

Well, this is easy. There are plenty of companies bringing out Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, most of which businesses already buy business kit from. For example, kit from Lenovo, Dell, and others. That type of vendor has demonstrable competency at delivering large-scale enterprise deployments of tablets. If you buy a thousand of them and they don't work, it's a far easier conversation to have with your boss.

Yes, that kit is not going to be as sexy as the Surface, which I still feel is oozing with cool and verve, but it is going to work, runs Windows 8 or Windows RT (which - duh - is the business objective) and it's much less likely to get you fired.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Topics: Windows, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • they've dealt very well with supporting...

    ...over 60 million (i'm including the ones that broke) xbox 360's.
    Solid bit of hardware/software and services backend.
    • Good Comment Sir!

      • For consumer bases...

        This whole xbox comparison isn't very helpful to the business market. We accept hard ware problems, and MS handling it is reassuring. The time it took is not. We aren't talking about home solutions where people rush out to by the latest thing. We're discussing mass purchase orders.

        At my company if you order 150 devices the day they come out, you're gambling with your job whoever you bought from. Down time is not accepted. We completely bypassed Vista for that reason; by the time the verdicts were in that the bugs were gone, seven rolled along, and a year later, we upgraded. It's the same with 8; 6 months would be the minimum time frame after release before we'd consider purchasing a new operating system.

        As for the tablets themselves it's completely impossible to predict which if any would have hardware issues, we'd wait to see. As for windows 8 tablets in general the word seems to be good. People want tablets instead of their laptops, they're not getting iPads or droids, those that make these decisions have been very clear about that; BYOD and it's on you. That said they see OS and hardware very differently. The general view seems to be that Business software support from MS is excellent and we'll be sticking with them. As for hardware, maybe surface, but with existing business providers offering excellent solutions; dell, ibm, hp, MS would have to prove themselves in this field.

        Business works on the assumption that tech will fail, all that matters is how quick you get it back up again. Hardware problems with a device line such as xbox, well those decisions come down to the buyer; never buy new or untested hardware for business where possible.

        Repairs, support and solutions is what really matters in a hardware vendor. For example the majority of the workstations here are supported by dell, and they're pretty good at getting out to us. Where I work, we use a private support company that guarantee same day call out because Dell and Apple can't offer that.

        Xbox isn't a helpful example to business; it's like "don't buy iMacs because when the 4 came out it had aerial issues" or more accurately "don't buy Vaio laptops because there were problems with the 60gb playstation"

        Business only cares about how the device you sell them works and how you support them when it doesn't. On the software side MS are trusted, on the hardware side they have to prove themselves just like everyone else.
        • as someone who handles bulk purchase orders for your company

          how's enterprise's feeling on the surface vs lenovo? lenovo is, after all, an enterprise favorite.
          • I don't do the bpo's

            Never said that. I'm in tech support if you're interested. Lenovo are big fav's due to the days of licensing ibm hardware. I can't comment on their service as we don't use them like I said.

            I can only comment on the partners and services we have used. In this role mostly Dell, NEC are in there too but never had any cause to call them up. Like I say we have a business account with Apple too, but they tend to just direct you to one of their partners.

            As I said the word around office for some time has been big on the full W8 tablets and Lenovo's $799 mark is sure to impress, but like I said, I'd be surprised if anyone Orders in the first wave of releases.
        • In reply to MarknWill

          I see the voice of experience here. I agree with everything you say. Every product has a "bedding in" period and if you want to live on the edge, go ahead and buy on day 1, but be prepared to live with the consequences. We will always have product breakdowns, what matters is, how well that is managed.

          How the above article equates corporate procurement with X-Box experience is a stretch for me but I had forgotten the Ring of Death, it's so long since it has been a real issue for X-Box users. I take comfort from that.

          We will all see how well the Surface performs in the coming months, but if it answers security questions around BYOD, it will tick a very important box for corporate customers.
      • What company that was looking to purchase in

        volume and not run a pilot with 20 or so first, then buy in waves?
        Johnny Vegas
    • Harumph

      Our kids' xbox red ringed and there was so much bureaucracy to get through, we just bought a new one. I didn't feel terribly "supported" that round. Certainly not an Apple-like experience where you can do the Genius bar appt. thing even when you're borderline on the warranty.
      • What Bureaucracy??

        Mine red-ringed. You call Microsoft (3 year warranty) they send you a box and you sent it in for repair!

        You must have been out of the 3 year warranty!
        • And three years is an exceptional warranty in the consumer marketplace.

          Enterprise warranties are typical three-to-five years and the enterprise pays quite a premium for that kind of warranty.
          M Wagner
      • Many gamers I know had 2 or even 3 boxes....

        so that they always had a working one while the others were in for repair.....So much for knowing how to build good hardware. It was a great way to inflate sales figures though.
        linux for me
        • Team gaming

          I think those gamers like to have friends coming to their home to play as team only. No one will buy so many xboxes just in case they are broken.
        • Enough with the hearsay evidence.

          You know multiple gamers with multple Xboxes specifically to avoid the red-ring problem.

          Do we have to believe you?

          How about some first-hand testimony for a change.

          I can do that too:
          "I know a lot of iPhone users who are fed up with the faulty antenna"
          • EDIT: Not denying the red-ring phenomenon

            Just wondering about the hordes of gamers who buy multple Xboxes because the problem is that rampant.
      • Not the experience I remember people having

        My XBOX has never red ringed probably because it is a later generation witha 65nm chip and runs cooler but the few people I know that had the RROD got their XBOX's fixed no questions asked. They called and gave the serial number or submitted it online and the only inconvenience they had was to be without their XBOX for a few weeks.

        I had to call Microsoft on my Kinect last year that partially worked and got that replaced easily too. I do not think your experience was they typical one.
  • Maybe a bit too early to tell ...

    If hardware is good (much better than it was 10 years ago) and a company does due diligence to test and confirm Surface tablets do what company needs, the rest can probably be handled pretty easy. First of all, many problems are not necessarily hardware related. If these devices can be zero based easily as other tablets can and there is a decent way to get selected software reinstalled (i.e. company appstore or cloud storage of installed apps) then this could happen fairly easily.
  • Blatant sensationalism and exaggeration

    "explain to me again why I've got a thousand members of staff who's new fangled Windows tablet thingies just go 'beep' when you turn them on"
    Tim Acheson
    • I dunno

      Not sure what the official stats were, but for the first few years after the raging POS that was the Xbox was released it had a 100% failure rate among the dozon or so people I know who bought one. Indeed, if you count multiple failures twice per the same person, the rate was well over 100% (I know some individuals with a 500% failure rate, so to speak).

      If the surface is even half as bad, it'll be an absolute disaster.

      That said, MS has also made some of the absolute best hardware out there; their keyboards, for instance, are second to none. So they have it in them, for sure.
      x I'm tc
      • Not a good comparison

        Comparing keyboards with full featured computers and tablets is a little far fetched. If I've got a company who makes great doors doesn't mean I'll be able to build a decent house!
        • How about Apple, Amazon, BarnesNobles,, ToysRus?

          Most successful tablet in the world and all of it is outsourced maunfacturing.

          A book company has a sucessful tablet line.

          An online retailer has a highly acclaimed tablet line.

          Even toys r us had built its own tablet.

          Most companies don't even build their own hardware anymore