Ask Paul: October 14 (Premium)

Happy Friday! For the second time this week, I’ve raced back and forth to Philadelphia to get my passport renewed ahead of Sunday’s flight to Mexico. But that hasn’t stopped this from being another mammoth edition of Ask Paul. So let’s dive right in…
Late to market
wright_is asks:

Why is Microsoft always last to market with old Intel and AMD processors? Every year, it seems that Intel and AMD announce their new processor line-ups and a few weeks later, Microsoft launch "new" Surface devices using processors that had just been replaced.

I’ve always thought it was because of what happened in 2015 with Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, the event I refer to as Surfacegate: Microsoft for the first and only time was first to market with a new generation of Intel processors and it really bit them hard.

There’s a whole story of Microsoft and Intel blaming each other for the issues, but I take Intel’s side on this one because I discussed it off the record with executives from the top two PC makers, and they told me the same thing: there was nothing particularly problematic about the Skylake generation of processors, and they shipped many more PCs with these exact chipsets and never had any issues. Microsoft, meanwhile, responded so poorly to Intel not taking the blame and doing the work to fix the problems that it literally refused to support multiple generations of Intel processors with Windows 10. It was a huge mess.

Why don't they skip a generation and be the first to bring out new devices with new processors, or release them 6 months earlier, when they are still relevant?

I just think they don’t want to get burned again. But this hesitancy to be leaders in any way cuts to the heart of my Nothing But Questions (Premium) from the other day: Surface releases product updates sporadically but still manages to mostly just ship evolutionary updates, so it’s the wrong combination of uncertainty of timing and lackluster upgrade appeal. That it ships many of its new products with previous-generation internals is nothing new, but it’s never not been a problem too. I’ve long argued that underdogs in whatever market need to do more than the market leaders, not less. That could make many forms, but Microsoft doesn’t utilize any of them. Pixel devices, for example, have various issues, but they do at least undercut the flagship market leaders on price, and that’s a key way to compete effectively.

On a related note…

I know it’s hard for fans of whatever company, product, or service to listen to criticism of that thing because it feels like a personal attack. But for those who are freaking out about my criticism of Surface in this case (and, to be clear, the person who asked this question is not doing this, at all), please consider the intent. I want Surface to succeed, and I actually like the product designs for the most part. But for that to happen, Surface needs to make sense first. And shipping the same t...

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