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

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.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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