Did Microsoft staff falsely blame Intel for Surface failures – even to their own CEO?

Surface Pro 4
Truth surfacing? Did Microsoft falsely finger Intel?

Microsoft staff not only falsely blamed Intel for their own failings with Surface devices, they misled their own CEO, too. At least, that’s the startling allegations made by renowned Windows watcher Paul Thurrott.

The revelations come in the wake of Consumer Reports stripping the Surface devices of their recommended awards, after claiming the devices suffered unacceptably high failure rates.

It seems Microsoft did indeed have big problems with the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book devices, which according to data published by Thurrott had 90-day return rates peaking at more than 15%.

Microsoft initially blamed these faults on Intel, claiming that the bugs in the devices were being caused by unreliable Skylake processors. According to Thurrott: “Microsoft, first out of the gate with Skylake chips, thus got caught up by this unreliability, leading to a falling out with Intel. Microsoft’s recent ARM push with Windows 10 is a result of that falling out; the software giant believes that Intel needs a counter to its dominance and that, as of late 2016, AMD simply wasn’t up to the task.”

It seems, however, that may just have been a smokescreen. Another source within the company has subsequently told Thurrott that the story about Intel was “fabricated” and that the faults with the Surface devices were actually down to software drivers written by Microsoft’s own engineers.

It seems even Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was led up the garden path. He only found out that Intel wasn’t to blame when he approached the issue with PC maker Lenovo.

“The Skylake fiasco came to a head internally when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella met with Lenovo last year and asked the firm, then the world’s biggest maker of PCs, how it was dealing with the Skylake reliability issues,” Thurrott writes. “Lenovo was confused. No one was having any issues, he was told. I assume this led to some interesting conversations between the members of the Microsoft senior leadership team.”

If this is true – and we’ve asked Microsoft to comment on the veracity of these reports – then it’s nothing short of gobsmacking. It suggests that senior Microsoft staff were so keen to cover their own backsides that they fabricated a story about the failings of one of their closest partners, instigated a hugely expensive and unnecessary drive to reintroduce ARM-based processors, and kept their own CEO in the dark.

Microsoft is infamous for its blame culture – engineers being dragged in for vicious tongue-lashings from Bill Gates. Has it grown so cancerous, that staff will go to these extraordinary lengths to cover up their own mistakes?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at

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