Is the Surface Pro 2 a Game Changer for Microsoft Stock?

Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Surface Pro 2 looked like it could be an awesome product. From its specs and previews, it looked perfectly suited to meet my wife's need for something more portable than a large laptop but more useful than a typical entertainment-oriented tablet. So we bought one.

Unfortunately, our experience with the tablet was a disaster. We were so frustrated with the device that about a week after unpacking it, we shipped it back to Microsoft and asked for a refund. Our experience was so poor that it even made me nervous to be a Microsoft shareholder.

What went wrong?
We experienced three key problems, two of which we could work around (the other may have been a glitch in our particular unit). Put all three together, however, and the combination led us to return the device for a refund.

The first key problem was that the Surface Pro 2 doesn't actually come with Microsoft Office. While all the commercials promised that the ubiquitous productivity package comes bundled with the Surface 2, I must have missed the fine print that said Office doesn't come with the Surface Pro 2.

While I question the decision to leave one of the most advertised features of the new Surface generation off the high-end models, it's a problem that can be worked around. All it takes is a bit more money and access to Microsoft's Home Use Program.

The second big problem was that the copy of Internet Explorer that came preloaded in Windows 8's Metro interface stopped working when my wife tried to log into her Gmail account. Still, that too could be worked around by installing the mail app or another browser, or by using the configuration of Internet Explorer that was available on the desktop.

The difference between "replace" and "refund"
The third key problem -- and the one that made us return the device -- was that its WiFi connectivity was awful. It would drop its connection to our home WiFi several times per day, and the only way to get it to reconnect was by rebooting the device. No amount of running the "repair" tool or working with the system's settings could get it to reconnect once it dropped.

We have a pretty solid WiFi router in our home and several other devices that stay connected without issue. Only the Surface Pro 2 had consistent problems, and only the Surface Pro 2 needed to be frequently rebooted to restore a connection when it did drop -- and yes, we installed the system updates.

That lousy WiFi connectivity meant the Surface Pro 2 was headed back to Microsoft, but what made us decide to ask for a refund, rather than a replacement, was the combination of all three problems. We felt duped by a product that simply failed to live up to our basic expectations, especially as nothing we were asking it to do was particularly cutting-edge.

Calming a nervous shareholder
Given how Microsoft had to write down $900 million on the original Surface products, our awful experience with our Surface Pro 2 made me fear another, potentially larger repeat. And with Microsoft already lagging in the tablet space and taking all sorts of flak for being stuck in the PC era, I feared a repeat of those troubles would hurt the company's shares -- including the ones I own.

But before I sold my shares, I went looking to see whether the problems we experienced were widespread or if we just happened to be extremely unlucky with our particular device. And what I found astonished me: It's surprisingly difficult to find complaints about the Surface Pro 2. I found a small handful of vocal critics, but most of the complaints I've been able to find are about the Surface 2, with many saying how great the Surface Pro2 is by comparison.

That served as a key reminder that a single anecdote isn't a trend and that one bad experience doesn't mean an entire line (or company, for that matter) is doomed. We're still not planning to buy another Surface Pro 2, but I'm willing to continue to hold the company's shares -- at least so long as they appear to be reasonably priced.

When all is said and done, what will drive Microsoft's stock over the long run is its ability to execute in the overall global market, not whether every single one of its tablets operates perfectly. So long as our experience with the Surface Pro 2 remains a fairly isolated incident rather than the defining story of the line, Microsoft may well have a success on its hands. And if it does, I'd hate to have sold my stake based on a single bad experience.

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Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 9:45 AM, ITGuy wrote:

    Just want to address the problems you've had with the Surface 2. I've been in IT for 15 years and just bought the Surface 2 a couple of weeks ago.

    First issue: Office did not come pre-installed. On mine it did just as promised. You must have gotten a bad batch or were accidentally sold RT.

    Second issue: This one is a valid issue and MS needs to do something IE compatibility issues however, had you gone to Tools menu and clicked Compatibility View settings you most likely could have resolved the problem.

    Third issue: Sometimes, your wi-fi router needs to be restarted. Generally, when you begin to see weird connectivity issues the first thing to do is unplug your router for 30 seconds. I'm not sure if you performed that step but it should always be done first.

    I get you had a bad experience and that's unfortunate because it really is a great device. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot but if MS can speed up the departure of Ballmer and hire a competent CEO, MS could have a great product in the Surface.

    PS, I don't work for MS nor do i own any stock. I work for a non-profit so I don't have a financial stake. Gradually, over the years I've grown to dislike Microsoft.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 9:58 AM, Drichter wrote:

    Three things.

    First, Office is not included with any computer. I personally thing Microsoft should make an exception for the Pro 2, but it's something you would run into with any similar hybrid device.

    Second, I am using the exact same product and have never had any issues logging into Gmail through either version of the web browser or the mail app. Or any other accounts through IE, for that matter.

    Third, I haven't had any problems connecting to WiFi at home, at work (where there are literally dozens of wireless devices nearby, most connected to the same network) or on the go with phone tethering. In fact, it finds networks faster and stays connected a little more reliably than the Yoga 11s it has all but replaced.

    For reference, I have a launch model, purchased on launch day, and updated as necessary with the standard updates. No tweaks.

    There's no denying that you had a bad experience, but I would say you might have been a little quick to judge.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 9:59 AM, Drichter wrote:

    No edit button to fix typos...

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 10:16 AM, ipinsao wrote:

    For the price? I bought a Lenovo Yoga instead.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 10:22 AM, ipinsao wrote:

    For the price, I bought a Lenovo Yoga instead. People who think Microsoft is only about Windows should be writing in a tech blog not an investing site. I bought Microsoft $27 last year when everyone was just yapping about how bad Windows 8 was. Its $37 now.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 11:41 AM, FoolInYakima wrote:

    Surface Pro 2 was never advertised as coming with Office, only the RT/Surface 2. The Pro versions were advertised as being able to run your productivity package software as they are a regular x86 based laptop. You can use the web app version of Office with the Pro versions, http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/web-apps.

    The router disconnect is a concern, I haven't seen that on any of the three Surfaces (RT, Surface Pro, Surface 2) that have come through my house so no idea what is happening without looking at your network and the log file son the device.

    And Gmail hasn't been an issue either. I usually use the built in email app but have logged into Gmail via the browser without any issues.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 11:44 AM, armandrouleau wrote:

    Facts:

    Surface RT: Comes with Office

    Surface Pro: Does not come with Office

    Surface 2: Comes with Office

    Surface Pro 2: Does not come with Office

    No Microsoft advertising has stated or shown Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2 as including Office with the price of the device.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 3:36 PM, freddyk wrote:

    maybe people should read the specs before they trash a product.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 7:40 PM, TMFBigFrog wrote:

    Hi Fools --

    Great comments. It's refreshing to see that I wasn't the only one confused by which models of the Surface 2 had and didn't have Office included with it. Microsoft has gotten a bit better at clarifying the fact that the Pro 2 does not have Office included than it did during the pre-launch window when I bought the Pro 2.

    Still, with the Home Use Program, that alone was a minor annoyance. It was the 1-2-3 combination that turned it into a "please refund" conversation rather than a "please either fix the WiFi or replace the unit with one that has good WiFi" conversation.

    As a shareholder, I'm very glad to see that my product experience doesn't seem to be typical.

    Best regards,

    -Chuck

    Inside Value Home Fool

    Disclosure: I own shares of Microsoft

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2013, at 8:28 AM, iflashy wrote:

    Chuck...It is real shame that you get to write on Motely

  • Report this Comment On November 23, 2013, at 1:06 AM, TMFBigFrog wrote:

    Hi iflashy,

    Welcome to the Motley Fool -- thanks for registering and sending in your comments. The Fool is always looking for ways to improve its content, and if you'd like to provide suggestions, I'm sure the editors would be happy to hear them.

    Best regards,

    -Chuck

    Inside Value Home Fool

    Disclosure: I own shares of Microsoft

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