A lawyer who purchased Microsoft’s brand new Surface tablet computer is suing the company for unfair business practices and false advertising. The Surface tablet, advertised as a 32GB model, in reality only has 16GB of storage space. Microsoft say that the 16GB of storage is standard for the model advertised as 32GB, and the lawsuit brought on by Andrew Sokolowski is without merit, that the public is unlikely to assume that they would have 32GB to use, even though it is advertised as “32GB”.
You may think that this is an open and shut case, if a product is advertised as 32GB it should have exactly that amount of storage, with anything else being false advertising. In reality, the Surface tablet does have a 32GB drive, but 16GB of it is reserved by Microsoft for the operating system, applications, large OS swap files and space for updates to be downloaded.
This is not a phenomenon exclusive to Microsoft, but Surface is one of the largest and most high profile offenders with an actual user storage ratio of only fifty percent of advertised levels for the 32GB model. Search deeply enough into small print and support areas of their website and you’ll discover that the 64GB surface model only has 45GB free for users. Again, from the landing pages, main adverts and packaging, many consumers could be easily forgiven for feeling mislead.
Both traditional hard drives and flash memory usually have less storage available than the advertised amount, with the primary reason being loose definitions of the term “gigabyte”. It is common to expect to be able to use around seven percent less than advertised. A 16GB drive may only actually be 15GB for practical use. Flash based drives as used in many tablets and ebook readers have even less storage available, as cells of storage are known to wear out as time goes by, so portions are reserved for this.
To give a meaningful comparison for competing tablet devices, Apple’s 16GB iPad actually has 14.3GB for use. Their 64GB iPad has 57.2GB available to users. Whilst some may feel let down by the lower amount of storage than advertised, at least the figures are approximately comparable.
The difference between Apple’s approach and that of Microsoft is that Apple chooses to store iPad’s operating system and pre-installed applications on its own separate memory and does not include this storage in the numbers they advertise, the opposite can be said of Microsoft’s Surface device.
It would be difficult however to argue that Microsoft has purposely tried to deceive and the actual issue comes down to whether you consider Surface to be a device competing with existing tablets or laptops, as it clearly is a revolutionary hybrid of the two. It is perfectly normal for laptops and home computers, including Apple’s Mac and Macbook, to include the operating system and other software in the advertised hard disk space. It is only portable devices such as smart phones, MP3 players and tablets that do not traditionally do this.
It is perhaps naivety on Microsoft’s part not to make this information clearer to consumers. However, the point to the end user is all but invalid – Surface can take extremely cheap memory cards and USB flash drives to expand available storage. This is something that the vast majority of tablets, Apple’s iPad range included, can not compete with, and it makes initial storage space a non-issue in practical terms.