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

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.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor and  Matt Baxter-Reynolds, Contributor

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.

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