Problems reported with Microsoft’s new Surface device

It was billed as everything you could want, all in one machine – the world’s first tablet/laptop hybrid.

But Microsoft’s foray into the tablet market has been hit with problems already, with customers complaining that screens of the Microsoft Surface have broken within days.

Some early buyers of the product have complained the Touch Cover screen has split, exposing an internal wire.

In each case, the same defect is being reported, that the Surface’s cover is coming apart at the seam. At the moment, it is not clear whether the issue is the result of a faulty batch or a more widespread problem.

Another issue being raised is audio quality, which has been said to change at random.

Users have taken to Surface and tech forums to raise their concerns. “My Touch Cover, in the middle at the join to the screen, is peeling,” said one, “like the top layer has come loose and is ruffling up. Worried it’s going to get worse as I use it more.”

Microsoft has refused to reveal how many complaints it has received so far, but said in a statement: “Microsoft makes every effort to ensure our customers receive a high quality product. We are in active contact with our customer support operations and are aware of a small number of instances of material separation. Customers can contact Microsoft customer support if they have any questions.”

It’s a setback for Microsoft, which has high hopes pinned on the Microsoft Surface. Bill Gates, who stepped down as Microsoft CEO in 2000, recently said in an interview published on the company’s YouTube page that the Microsoft Surface would blow “other tablets” out of the water.

The Surface comes with a price tag of $500, so is very much aimed at the top end of the market, aiming to provide a real alternative to Apple’s iPad. If you choose additional storage space or features, the price increases, and the Touch Cover costs around $80.

This is being seen as a defining time for Microsoft as, while the Washington firm has always been firmly associated with the PC market, the firm is keen to move with the times and push forward into the smartphone and tablet market.

The tablet went on sale for pre-order on October 16 and Microsoft is expected to sell millions of the gadgets. Whether this alleged glitch affects sales numbers remains to be seen.

Current chief executive Steve Ballmer has said in an interview with French daily Le Parisien that Surface sales are “starting modestly” as a result of the Surface at first being available online and in a few US Microsoft sales.

But Tim Worstall, who is a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, said: “This just confirms to me the wisdom of an IBM speaker at a conference decades ago. You should never buy the Version 1.0 of anything. Actually, I’d extend this to never buy the version X.o of anything at all. Always wait until the 1.1 or X.1 version when they’ve got those last few bugs ironed out.”

Microsoft will, of course, be hoping no one else follows this rule.