Redmond, we still have a problem.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) hasn't put out any hard data on the number of consoles that launched last weekend with defective optical disc drives, but it's still scrambling to catch up to the situation.
As one of the many recipients of a broken "Day One" console, I had taken Microsoft at its word when it offered a swift response.
This message confirms your order for a replacement Xbox console. Under the terms of the program, we'll send you a replacement console bundle within the next two (2) business days.
I'm still waiting. It's now been more than a week since I was finally able to get through to Microsoft's Xbox support to authorize the exchange. My replacement system still hasn't shipped, something that was confirmed to me this weekend by an online support employee.
Having to wait longer than promised for a replacement console certainly falls under the "first world problems" umbrella, but this is really about confirming that Microsoft has a bigger problem on its hands than it may be letting on with its next-gen platform. There were reports that Sony (NYSE:SNE) shipped a few defective PS4 consoles a week earlier. There weren't as many buggy Wii U consoles shipped by Nintendo (NASDAQOTH:NTDOY) a year earlier, but many early adopters shutting off the system in the middle of its lengthy update were greeted with inoperable systems.
Mistakes happen. No launch is perfect. However, it's now clear that Microsoft has its hands full here. Being told that I had to wait nearly nine hours for a call from customer support during launch weekend to report my problem initially was a dead giveaway, but now having to wait more than a week for a replacement that was supposed to have shipped no later than last Tuesday all but cements those suspicions. Microsoft can't seem to manufacture enough systems to replace the defective ones it shipped to the first wave of buyers.
Microsoft hasn't been entirely asleep at the wheel. It reached out to the buyers of disc-averse Xbox One systems to offer a free digital download. It was a savvy gesture, since those owners can't play games on discs or watch Blu-ray movies, but they can still engage with the cloud until it's time to replace the system. However, even then Microsoft wasn't warning that it wouldn't be able to live up to its promised replacement timeline.
Apologists may argue that the Xbox One inoperable disc drives aren't a big problem. They can reason that Microsoft -- like Sony -- sold out quickly of its "Day One" systems, and that it shifted supply to allocate inventory for retailers with Black Friday promotions this weekend. However, it still means they betrayed some of the gamers who had preordered months ago to assure that they would have a working Xbox One system by now.
We won't know how big a problem this is right away. It took several quarters before Microsoft recorded a charge north of $1 billion on the Xbox 360 launch because it had to extend the warranties after so many defective systems stopped working. However, it certainly seems as if a company that wants to become a hardware company -- something that outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer has made perfectly clear -- has a long way to go on the quality end of its products.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.