Microsoft Didn’t Get Its Math Wrong In That Excel Billboard

2013-11-11_13h09_32Scandal! Intrigue! Can Excel actually add?

Yesterday, AppleInsider pointed out that Microsoft appears to have made a calculation error in a billboard touting the fact that its Surface tablets ship with the Office productivity set of applications. A math typo in Excel while shouting that Excel is bundled with your new hardware? That would be embarrassing.

Here’s the image, which includes math that should sum to $9,500, but is instead calculated to $9,000 by Excel (image via AppleInsider):

excel 1

The Microsoft chattering class – there are about  eight of us – ran tests after Frank Shaw, the company’s VP of communications, said that the image wasn’t wrong, but that “Excel recalculates when done editing” and the “ad shows work in progress.” He suggested that those in doubt try it themselves.

Todd Bishop, an excellent human, tried to recreate the spreadsheet and failed:

I tried a variety of different input scenarios, including the possibility that the bottom two cells in the list were left out of the autosum formula, but I haven’t been able to reproduce precisely what the ad shows. I even tried snapping it to the side as shown in the billboard.

I tried as well, on Office Web Apps, Office 2010, and Office 2013 RT on a Surface 2. I also failed to recreate the above screenshot. Then, friend of the blog Brad Sams rode to Microsoft’s rescue, and showed that it was possible in both Office 2013 and Office Web Apps.

Office Web Apps:

Office 2013:


So the ad isn’t incorrect; it’s only very oddly constructed and begging for a solid mocking.

There is one final wrinkle. In the advertisement, there is no “$500” in the equation bar, as exist in both of our examples of the Excel spreadsheet working with the same input. Sams thinks that the bit has simply been removed with a photo-editing tool. Mary Branscombe has minor user interface quibbles about what version of Excel is being used. I don’t really care, frankly.

The gist is, no, Excel isn’t so internally broken that it can’t add. Yes, Numbers can do the same thing. But I have to say, if AppleInsider’s screenshots of Numbers are current, yuck.

Feature image via Flickr