Over the last couple of years, it's become a source of great exasperation for those of us who cover tech news to see Microsoft regularly releasing updates with no documentation to explain what they're for. That frustration - and annoyance - must surely be even greater for those who have paid hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for one of the company's Surface devices.
For the most part, Microsoft's documentation of its software is thorough and detailed - but all too often, the company has repeatedly failed to provide timely information about the drivers and patches that it's pushing to users' machines.
One such incident occurred on July 21, when Microsoft released a new firmware update for its Surface Pro 4 tablet. As we pointed out at the time, that was another example of the rollout beginning with no documentation to inform users of what was being installed on their devices. Microsoft didn't publish any details about that update until three days later.
Worse still, it later emerged that its earlier update package had included a problematic driver, which had caused Windows Hello functionality to break on Surface Pro 4 tablets. However, as Computerworld reported, Microsoft's release notes for that update hadn't even mentioned the driver that caused the issue. A later update, released on August 2, was the only immediate reference to that problem, with a new driver promising to 'resolve [the] Windows Hello experience error' on the Pro 4.
Unfortunately, Microsoft learned no lessons from that incident. Today, Computerworld reported that Microsoft pushed out a fresh set of updates over the weekend - this time, to its newest Surface Pro tablet - and once again, it did so without publishing any release notes for them. Owners of those devices were given nothing more to go on but a set of driver names, as shown in the image below:
At time of writing, Microsoft's Surface Update History site still included no hint of the new drivers, days after they began rolling out. According to Microsoft's documentation, its most recent update was released on July 13.
Last week, Microsoft suffered the ignominy of seeing its Surface devices lose their 'recommended' status from Consumer Reports, which cited reliability concerns about the Surface line. That decision was based on feedback from owners of devices before the new Surface Pro was released, but the stigma of that announcement obviously tainted the whole Surface brand by association.
Microsoft quickly disputed the findings, and its devices chief, Panos Panay, published a blog post emphasizing the company's commitment to the Surface range. He asserted that feedback such as that provided by Consumer Reports "pushes us to obsess more about our customers."
And yet, just hours later, Microsoft apparently had little consideration for its Surface customers, as it again pushed out an update to their devices without giving them any clear information about what that update included, and how the drivers contained within it might improve - or potentially, adversely affect - their systems.
Surface owners, and many of us in the media, have repeatedly highlighted Microsoft's inconsistent documentation of such updates. Given that undocumented drivers continue to roll out every few weeks, it's clear that those complaints have fallen on deaf ears. If Microsoft expects to be taken seriously when it professes its 'obsessive' devotion to its customers, it needs to demonstrate that through its actions, not just its words.
For a company of its size, and with its vast resources, Microsoft's haphazard approach to something as simple and fundamental as documenting its updates really isn't good enough.