Microsoft Sued Because It Overloaded Surface Tablet With Pre-Installed Apps

from the truth-in-advertising dept

Recently, people noticed that — in classic Microsoft fashion — its new 32GB Microsoft Surface tablet only had 16GB of free storage when you took it out of the box. Why? Because this is Microsoft and it loaded the damn thing down with pre-installed software that took up a ton of storage (including, of course, its own bloated tablet operating system, Windows RT). Competing tablets, including the iPad and various Android tablets, come with significantly more free space, even on models advertised as having the same storage. Microsoft has tried to play up the value of the pre-installed software, the fact that you can expand storage via a microSDXC card slot and that it offers 7GB of free “cloud” storage with the device. And, oh yes, you can also manually delete stuff and get back some space.

None of this was enough for one guy, however, as Andrew Sokolowski is now suing Microsoft claiming that Microsoft is misrepresenting the device. While he’s seeking class action status, unlike many class action lawsuits that are all about money, it’s actually nice to see that he’s not seeking any money — just asking Microsoft to stop misrepresenting the product.

I can’t find the actual lawsuit on PACER yet, though I imagine it’ll be up soon. On the whole, while I find it incredible (and so typically Microsoft) that Microsoft is selling the tablet loaded down with so much software, does that really require a legal response? The story is getting out in the press, and people must know that at least some of the tablets they buy have pre-installed apps on them. It seems like a situation where an informed consumer is likely to know that this is one of the downsides of buying the Surface, and it’s not clear that Microsoft needs to be legally compelled to explain how much free space is on the device out of the box.

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Comments on “Microsoft Sued Because It Overloaded Surface Tablet With Pre-Installed Apps”

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76 Comments
JMT says:

Re: Re: What is surprising is that Mike would think a lawyer would respond any other way.

It’s not marketed as having 32GB “available space”, it’s marketed as having 32GB of capacity. So no, it’s not dishonest, it’s just annoying that there’s a bunch of crap that you have to delete yourself if you don’t want it. Hardly worthy of anything more than a grumpy blog post, let alone legal action.

John Doe says:

I hope he wins!

I also hope he sues the rest of the manufacturers. I have a Samsung 8GB tablet that has about 5.5GB of free space. Now that is plenty for me as I don’t have much media on it, but it is false advertising. Or at the very least, misleading. An 8GB (or 16, 32, etc) should have that much free space. Or it should be advertised for what it really has free, not in total.

Some Other AC (profile) says:

Re: I hope he wins!

Then in similar vein, sue every single computer company. I have a dell laptop with a 500GB HDD, but out of the box i only had 470GB free space thanks to OS, preinstalled application, drivers, utilities, etc…

Honestly, I used to work in Retail and had people return thumb drives for this reason. We would try to educate them, but ultimately 85% would just return it. They would then go 4 doors down to competitor and buy a similar item. We would then compare notes on the same people and they had returned it there.

You can’t fix lack of common sense.

Gigi Duru (profile) says:

Re: Re: I hope he wins!

Actually no, you don’t have just 470 GB of hdd space because the rest is occupied, you have just 470 because your disk IS really just 470 GB – the 500 number is a commercial lie: all hdd manufacturers use a dishonest way of measuring their product. And yes, most of the general people is incapable of understating that and blames the builder of the pc.
In reality you would have less than 450 GB of free space, since a typical W7 install takes about 25 GB out of the box and around 20GB after trimming the fat.
BTW the loss on the thumb drives is a lot smaller – practically unnoticeable if no additional sw is installed in it. If they notice it then something was totally wrong there and yes, they should be replaced.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I hope he wins!

HDD manufactures arent being dishonest, they use the measurement that makes sense…1 gig = 1000 megs. OSs use the measurement that makes it easier for software engineers… 1 gig = 1024 megs.

Neither side is being dishonest, but they are using two different measuring systems that makes things confusing.

Mark Gisleson (profile) says:

There is no consumer protection

in this country. When Microsoft’s super-buggy Word 6.0 resulted in my hospitalization (cardiac arrhythia), the MN AG’s office refused to even consider suing Microsoft. They flat out told me that Microsoft was bigger than Minnesota, and there was no point to litigation.

Clinton’s DOJ gave MS a free pass on monopolistic abuses. I don’t think that horse is ever getting put back into the barn.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: There is no consumer protection

> Clinton’s DOJ gave MS a free pass on monopolistic abuses.

IIRC, under Clinton the DOJ sued Microsoft in a historic antitrust case. After Microsoft was found guilty and it was in the penalty phase, and a breakup was on the table, Bush came into office. Under Bush’s DOJ, Ashcroft let Microsoft slide with a consent decree. That means Microsoft promises to play nice for a stated period of time while another judge oversees and pretends to understand the ways Microsoft hinders or just plain stops effective competition. Also IIRC, the original judge finding the guilty verdict made the misstep of discussing too much with the press before he had officially announced the verdict.

Mark Gisleson (profile) says:

Re: Re: There is no consumer protection

Here’s a very old archive of a newspaper column about what happened to me, and sorry for misspelling Arrhythmia.

http://mfinley.com/articles/cardiac.htm

I accidentally bought Word 6 before it went on sale (clerical error) and because of that and my very busy resume writing service I got to be a primary troubleshooter for MS on that horrible release. Apparently not one single beta tester typed over 50 wpm, and they didn’t realize how buggy the Typeahead buffer was. Word was literally dropping words and letters at random out of what I was inputting and suddenly my workload doubled due to the need for very close proofreading. Resulted in involuntary eye twitches and then my heart went out of rhythm, something that’s never happened before or since.

PaulT (profile) says:

Hmmm… I’m split. On the one hand, it’s hard enough trying to get across to non-techies why their advertised 1TB drive doesn’t contain 1TB of formatted space or why they don’t need spyware crap X just because it came pre-installed. So in that sense, I support any attempt to get manufacturers to be transparent and stop piling on crap people don’t need.

On the other hand, this is really a non-issue in terms of overall usage of the device. Want more space and don’t want the app? Remove the app. Want the app? You need to use the space whether it came pre-installed or not. Unless MS have tried pulling one of their tricks where you can’t uninstall an app, it’s not really worth going to court over.

out_of_the_blue says:

@ #1: But does Microsoft respond to anything less than a hammer?

It’s the biggest waster of HD space around — gigs of sheer crap that no one will ever use, plus (used to be) 10% for “recovery partition” that may work once at most, plus its always huge swap file that bloats due to bloated programs! So if they get banged up over this after decades of wasting resources, serves them right.

But of course corporate-friendly Mike reverses himself at the last to not want even evil Microsoft to be legally compelled to put some info on their boxes! The horror! Being made to label a box with facts is a terrible injustice to an upstanding corporate “person”!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Point of Clarification

it’s not really false advertising. the 32gb surface does indeed come with a 32gb drive. the 500gb PC that dell sells doesn’t come with 500gb of free space, but no one seems to mind. personally, i think he’s just upset that he expected similar numbers to android or apple, which have a small footprint (but can’t easily expand the memory).

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Point of Clarification

> the 500gb PC that dell sells doesn’t come with 500gb of free space, but no one seems to mind.

The OS is a much less significant portion of that drive on a PC. Also, you can usually upgrade the hard drive on a PC and do it cheap and easily.

It’s also much easier to clean the crap off of a PC. You can completely re-install the OS from scratch from a pristine OEM copy if you want.

This is a bit different from a locked down pre-configured device that’s not intended to be altered by the end user.

“Clearing off the crap” simply may not be possible.

DannyB (profile) says:

Microsoft should be required to disclose free space

> It seems like a situation where an informed consumer is likely
> to know that this is one of the downsides of buying the Surface,
> and it’s not clear that Microsoft needs to be legally compelled
> to explain how much free space is on the device out of the box.

Whether or not an informed consumer is likely to know or not is irrelevant.

An uninformed consumer is a lot less likely to know.

In either case, you don’t actually provide a reason, other than a vague “it’s not clear” why Microsoft should not be legally required to properly state the free space out of the box.

Using that thinking, why should the orange juice company be legally required to disclose how much actual juice is in that sealed opaque carton of orange juice? Informed consumers probably know it is not filled to the tippy-top of the carton. So just how much empty space in that carton is not clear. In any case, it’s not clear why the orange juice company should be legally required to disclose the amount of actual juice I am buying.

The amount of free space on the SSD is the useful feature that is being misrepresented. So how far would you think based on “it’s not clear” should Microsoft be allowed to go? Suppose a tablet was advertised as having 64 GB of SSD, but only have 2 GB free space out of the box? Would that be okay? Should Microsoft not be legally required to disclose the actual useful amount that the consumer is expecting?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Microsoft should be required to disclose free space

“In any case, it’s not clear why the orange juice company should be legally required to disclose the amount of actual juice I am buying.”

Bad analogy, at least where I’m from – the volume listed on the carton is the amount of OJ that should be there. In that case, you’re buying the OJ, the packaging is simply used to transport it to you. If you’re buying 1 litre of OJ, it’s irrelevant whether the carton actually holds 1 litre, 1.2 litres or 2 litres as long as the carton actually holds 1 litre of OJ.

“Suppose a tablet was advertised as having 64 GB of SSD, but only have 2 GB free space out of the box”

Suppose it did? Now, this is where it gets tricky. How are Microsoft advertising it? Are they saying “this product comes with 64GB of usable space out of the box” or are they saying “this product comes with a 64GB SSD card”?

In the former case, it’s false advertising. In the second case, they’re telling the truth. The problems come in where less technically educated users presume that the former is what’s being said while they’re actually saying the latter. Especially in cases like the above, where space should easily be freed up by the user if required.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Microsoft should be required to disclose free space

I could argue that the tablet is just the container of the usable space. If it is advertised as having XX GB, then the consumer might expect most of that to be usable. The preloaded OS and crapware are also part of the container, or part of what makes the tablet work. The point of advertising that it has XX GB of SSD in the first place is to give the consumers some expectation about how much of their own content they can load onto the device. I don’t care how bloated a Microsoft OS is, or how much crapware they preload. I want to know how many movies, music, photos, books and additional software I can put onto it.

However, arguing about the carton for the OJ being only the container misses the point. The reason that containers must be labeled with the correct amount of OJ is to prevent just the type of surprise that victims of Surface tablets are experiencing. The fact that this surprise is occurring demonstrates the need of required labeling. Just because the need has gone previously unrecognized does not mean that the need doesn’t exist. More importantly, the labeling prevents abuse, such as putting a small amount of juice into a large but weighted container to make it feel full and then advertising it as a gallon.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Microsoft should be required to disclose free space

> Should Microsoft not be legally required
> to disclose the actual useful amount
> that the consumer is expecting?

As long as MS isn’t preventing people from deleting the pre-installed apps, I don’t understand all the heartburn here.

If you want more free memory, delete the frakkin’ apps. Simple as that. Certainly nothing to sue over.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, this. Microsoft is not engaging in false advertising, as the device does have the amount of memory they claim. That too much is used up by crapware is annoying, but you can delete it, so no harm done.

BTW, if you root your android phone, you can delete any app you want. If you’re more ambitious, you should replace the manufacturer’s crapified version of Android with the real thing (I like Cyanogenmod) and then you have easy total control over your device.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, I had to root my phone to downgrade to the previous OS because an update caused a fault with my phone. I can certainly get into the freedom and total control I have when rooted. However, I began to quickly delve into aspects outside my comfort zone and reminded myself why I’m not an electronic/software nerd.

reboog711 (profile) says:

If Microsoft is at fault; then why not other Mobile manufacterers?

This is not unique to Microsoft or the Surface. An iOS or Android device will have the same issue.

If Microsoft is “Wrong” for not advertising usable space; then why not Apple or Samsung or Motorola or [insert your favorite hardware manufacturer here?

I don’t understand how any of this is “classic Microsoft fashion” though. Does XBox exhibit the same problem? I can’t think of any other hardware that Microsoft sells which would be comparable.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: If Microsoft is at fault; then why not other Mobile manufacterers?

Exactly what I was thinking.

Nobody discloses the actual unused space on their devices. I’m no fan of overloading a tablet, phone, or computer with crap-ware, but it seems a bit late in the game to be suing about it. Specifically calling out Microsoft because they leave less space than someone else is very arbitrary.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: If Microsoft is at fault; then why not other Mobile manufacterers?

I think it’s less that it happens, and more the scale that is the issue here: remember that this isn’t even the full version of Windows 8 and bloatware that’s taking up that much space on the SSD. You’re paying ?400 for 16GB of storage out-of-the-box. Aplle offers slightly less than that with their 16GB offering (last, I checked, it was 15.4GB formatted.)

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: If Microsoft is at fault; then why not other Mobile manufacterers?

I agree with you that Microsoft should not be singled out.

The thing that is new with Microsoft’s tablet is that it pushes the boundary to a new and surprising point. Previous devices have not generally caused this much surprise to buyers. Or alternately, if they have, then they further reinforce the need for a labeling requirement.

But Microsoft should not be singled out.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: If Microsoft is at fault; then why not other Mobile manufacterers?

“This is not unique to Microsoft or the Surface. An iOS or Android device will have the same issue. “

Indeed. I believe this is worse than other examples, however – that is, a greater percentage of the Surface’s available storage is taken up with pre-installed software than other devices. Losing a couple of hundred meg for iOS and its preinstalled apps isn’t the same as losing 50% of your space off the bat, even if the space can easily be recovered.

If the lawsuit were to be successful, I have no doubt that other manufacturers would be a target for future lawsuits. This would just be the first.

“I can’t think of any other hardware that Microsoft sells which would be comparable.”

They’ve only recently branched into hardware, most of which is not general purpose hardware (the XBox is not comparable, for example, although they used to preinstall the Hexic HD game which many people didn’t want). But, they have a long history of prebuilding unnecessary things into their OS or as part of bundle packages with OEMs (e.g. the pain-in-the-ass 60 day Office trial), hence the comment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

i find that argument invalid. you lose nothing by them installing it (other than a couple minutes uninstalling it), whereas it provides value and use to a multitude of other people. just because *you* don’t like it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t add value. you could make that argument for every single possible feature in existence if that were the case. the feature would actually have to *limit* you in some way to make the argument for taking value away. in this case, it does not, so i’d have to strongly disagree with you.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I was unclear, sorry. I was not making the “take value away” argument myself, I was saying that the fact that someone felt the need to sue over the issue means that they felt value was being taken away. I also said that I think the lawsuit is ridiculous.

However, the presence of the software does not necessarily equate to adding value, which was my point.

That said, I do think that crapware takes value away from the device, but if it can be easily uninstalled, the mount of the value reduction is so small as to be insignificant.

Even that depends on how much crapware there is — back when I used to buy preconfigured computers, they often had so much garbage that it was less time-consuming to reformat the drive and install a fresh copy of the OS to get rid of it. I would say the crapware took diginificant value away from the computer in those cases. But I digress.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It’s hard to see how Google could do this, really, except for their own apps. The problem is that Google does not control what the manufacturer does with Android. They can and do make changes to the OS to suit their own desires. This is beyond just installing crapware, including disabling certain built-in functionality such as tethering, replacing the UI with custom version, installing OS-level spyware, and so forth.

This is why I recommend that people replace the version of Android that came on their phone with an unmodified version.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Well, I suppose one person’s expected apps is another person’s crapware. Almost all of the apps that come with tablets & smartphones that I have used (iOS & Android, and the non-RT Win 8) are ones that I want to get rid of immediately either because they’re useless to me or I want a version that doesn’t suck. So, it’s crapware.

Kurata says:

here are 2 different cases from France, concerning the same types of demands.

http://www.legalis.net/spip.php?article3496

In this one, Mr. D (name withheld as per law) sued sony for having installed windows vista and some pre-installed softwares in his sony vaio laptop.
However, Mr.D was knowledgeable in the computer domain as proved by a website, and by being a militant for free softwares.
His demands were squashed.

Second case
http://www.codes-et-lois.fr/feeds/web-juridique/_dd457c3991380a8e5278ef3771ed4bac

Mr. M bought a computer of samsung brand which came with windows and some pre-installed softwares. He wanted to have both the softwares and windows refunded as per the license agreement that he had to accept on first boot up.
Mr. M got the windows license refunded, but didn’t get anything for the preinstalled softwares.
The reasoning is that the preinstalled softwares could very well be uninstalled and no harm would be done.

What the judges also stated was that the computer itself and the softwares were two different parts, one physical, and another one being software.

Now this isn’t the USA I know, but the second case’s reasoning could be used as well.

Elie (profile) says:

Whole things needs reform

I’ve always felt the storage marketing needs reform anyway. My 32 GB iPad has only 28.xx GB of space available because of the OS. I buy a 1 TB HDD, I have 8xx GB of space to use. Selling me something of one size when I actually have a smaller one is always a little upsetting. I know formatting and mathematical calculations take up some of it, but it seems like this whole concept of upgrading to more storage seems in need of reform.

Hambone says:

How is this "typically Microsoft"?

This line from the article really bothers me:
“… I find it incredible (and so typically Microsoft) that Microsoft is selling the tablet loaded down with so much software… “

I think the inclusion of Office is actually a good thing. You do realize that it can be deleted, right?

And we’re talking about Office here! Not some “Free” antivirus trial. Are you trying to say that it’s incredibly _good_ that they’ve included the Office suite? I know that’s not what you’re saying, but it would make more sense to me.

OK, what is so “typically Microsoft” about it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How is this "typically Microsoft"?

Yup. I was about to say the same thing.

Customers know RT version of Windows comes with free MS Office. And we all know Office will take a few GB of space away.

Customer also know th Win8 makes an effort to unify the desktop and tablet experience, so they should know the OS itself will take away a few GB. (The current Windows folder on my WinXP installation is over 15GB in size)

What else the user does not know? How can that count as missrepresenting the product?

Out of uniform Capt. Obvious says:

One could try asking nicely.

it’s not clear that Microsoft needs to be legally compelled to explain how much free space is on the device out of the box.

And one could try asking nicely. Does anyone here think Microsoft would respond to a nice letter?

Does anyone think that Microsoft is going to come forward to tell others what the answer to the question is?

Other than the force of law – what options are left for people to get an answer from a large Corporation?

Anonymous Coward says:

This practice does need to end. I’m really tired of buying a device of any kind, hard drive, mp3 player, computer, whatever, with an advertised amount of storage only to find out that it was generously over-stated: the base software plus reserved space, then bloatware that I may or may not be able to remove (like how I’ll have to root my phone just to uninstall some bloat), even hiding the actual usable formatted space, is really not acceptable. It’s not as if anything would change, we’d still get the same amount of storage, just with less guessing as to how much is usable out of the box. Up front honesty is a good thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Well, I have a ton of crap on my Galaxy tab that I simply do not want, but I can’t just remove the apps, the apps are non-negotiable. I’d have to jailbreak it to get rid of this stuff and I don’t think my skills are nearly good enough for that. The best you can do is to tell the device to stop updating apps you don’t use or want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

You can delete any app you want on Android. Hell, you can even download the source files yourself, remove components of the Android system itself you do not want, and then compile and load it onto your phone.

You can’t do this with Apple devices and retain your warranty or resale value, and in some jurisdictions, it’s actually illegal to jailbreak. Shortly will not be able to with WinRT devices either, as Microsoft has promised device manufacturers that they would be able to completely lock it down to only using applications from the Microsoft App Store. Oh, also bonus to them, because they also get the option of deleting things from your WinRT devices remotely, with no way for you to block it from happening.

Ian Bunting (profile) says:

Microsoft should be required to disclose free space

Actually its a perfect analogy.
The surface is more than its capacity, it is also its functionality.
The functionality and its capacity, both advertised features of the device cannot co-exist at the same time and so the description is not accurate.
It is advertised as two things when it can only ever be one of them.
A peripheral, an added component can often be described by its unformatted capacity because it is not being described by the functionality that the software installed on it provides.

Jim B. says:

If Microsoft is at fault; then why not other Mobile manufacterers?

In answer to the question about why other companies besides Microsoft aren’t being targeted by the lawsuit: in the U.S., a person cannot sue unless they have “standing” to sue. In this case the guy is suing Microsoft because it was a Microsoft device that he purchased, so he has standing to sue Microsoft. Even if other companies are pre-loading their devices with extra software, this guy can’t sue them if he doesn’t own one of their devices because he hasn’t suffered any “harm” by their actions — which means that he doesn’t have standing to sue them.

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