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12/7/2013
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Microsoft Sells Dell's Venue 8 Pro Tablet For $99

You're unlikely to find a better Windows 8 tablet deal. How does Dell's tablet stack up to the iPad?

On Monday, for one day only, Microsoft's online store and retail locations will sell Dell's Venue 8 Pro Windows 8.1 tablet for $99, an eye-opening $200 off the new device's regular price. If you've been on the fence about buying a Windows tablet this holiday season, you're unlikely to find many deals better than this one.

Dell's 8-inch slate isn't the first mini-tablet to run the full version of Windows, including desktop apps. But earlier efforts, such as Acer's Iconia W3, were hampered by cheap hardware and slow processors, to say nothing of Windows 8's rough edges and infamous learning curve. Dell's Venue line, in contrast, has been generally well-received. Forrester analyst David Johnson told InformationWeek in October that the devices are compelling options that compare favorably to more expensive and ballyhooed options, such as Microsoft's Surface tablets.

But you'll have to act fast if you want in on this deal. The offer is good only on Monday, and each Microsoft location will sell only twenty Venue 8 Pros at $99. After that, the devices will sell for $199 - still a pretty good deal - until inventory is depleted. Microsoft's online store will offer the Venue 8 Pro for $99 to the first 100 customers. After that, the cost shifts to $199 for the rest of the day or while supplies last.

[ Buying a tablet this holiday season? Read Tablet Shopping Guide: 8 Tips. ]

The promotion is available only to customers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Each customer is also limited to one device.

In limited use, I've found the Venue 8 Pro to be snappy and responsive. Its quad-core "Bay Trail" processor is a noticeable improvement over previous Intel Atom chips, and though its screen doesn't boast the resolution of some competing options, the device's 1200x800-pixel display is still quite decent.  

Dell's Venue 8 Pro supports stylus and keyboard accessories.
Dell's Venue 8 Pro supports stylus and keyboard accessories.

Windows 8.1 is also a major improvement over Windows 8. The update's app-snapping multi-tasking function is particularly welcome on an 8-inch display because it allows users to split the screen evenly between two apps. In the original version of Windows 8, one app had to occupy three-quarters of the display, which made multi-tasking impractical on smaller tablets.

Other Venue 8 Pro appeals include a preloaded copy of Office Home & Student 2013, 32 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM. It also includes a Micro USB port and can run for up to 10 hours between charges.

Are there any reasons not to take advantage of this sale? A few.

For starters, buying a Windows 8.1 tablet isn't the same as buying an Android or iOS tablet. They're all fine for accessing the Web, sending email or watching Netflix, but if you're looking for an expanded ecosystem of touch-first apps, iOS and Android still set the standard. Windows 8.1's app store isn't as impoverished as it was once, but the Venue 8 Pro's major sales draw isn't touch apps; it's support for desktop software, particularly Microsoft Office.

Does this make the Venue 8 Pro more productive than an iPad? It depends. The Venue 8 Pro offers stylus support and can connect to third-party keyboards via Bluetooth. Dell also plans to release its own keyboard accessory soon. These tools will be useful to some, but desktop software will provide only so much utility running on such a small form factor. The Venue 8 Pro won't replace a laptop, but it could be a terrific secondary device for work.

Display resolution might be another concern. The Venue 8 Pro's screen is serviceable-- but it's also put to shame by the new iPad Mini's 2048x1536-pixel Retina display. Some might also be bothered by the awkward placement of the Start button; many Windows tablets place the button beneath the screen, in the middle of the bottom bezel, but Dell counter-intuitively positioned the button on the device's top-right edge. Other might be peeved that the device's 10-hour battery life can only be achieved if the screen brightness is turned down; otherwise, the battery runs closer to eight hours. The Venue 8 Pro also lacks an HDMI port for connecting the tablet to a monitor or television, though Windows 8.1's native Miracast support somewhat mitigates this concern.

But given that the device is being offered at such extreme discounts, most of these concerns are minor quibbles.

And if you miss out on the Venue 8 Pro 8, don't despair. Monday's promotion is the kickoff of Microsoft's "12 Days of Deals" campaign, with new discounts offered each day.

Consumerization 1.0 was "we don't need IT." Today we need IT to bridge the gap between consumer and business tech. Also in the Consumerization 2.0 issue of InformationWeek: Stop worrying about the role of the CIO. (Free registration required.)

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ricegf
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ricegf,
User Rank: Guru
12/7/2013 | 12:11:13 PM
Good deal at $99, otherwise...
It's a quite decent tablet and great deal for $99 despite the limited app selection, but at $199 not so much.

For example, the Kindle HDX has been selling on Amazon for $179 (bought one for my wife for Christmas, actually). It has a better 1920x1200 screen, 2.2 GHz quad-core, the (in)famous MayDay button, and of course (with Prime) an excellent infrastructure including free book and movie rentals, a free normally-paid Android app each day, excellent shopping, strong supporting cloud services, etc.

Or try the newly updated Nexus 7, with comparable specs to the Kindle HDX plus Google Play and pure Android goodness, and selling at a regular price of $189 at Walmart.

You can even get an original iPad Mini for $299 at regular price - similar specs to the Venue, but an app store overflowing with tablet-specific apps and top-shelf build quality. And it's from Apple, for those for whom that matters.

Unless you have a legacy app that you can't replace (and really want to try to run on a low-res touch screen), or just love Microsoft, or you're among the early buyers who get the $99 price, these other options look better (to me - YMMV) than the Venue 8 Pro even at the $199 sale price.

However, I'm happy for those who really *want* a decent Windows tablet at only a small premium (or a discount for the lucky first buyers) - looks like they are finally getting their wish. Merry Christmas!  :-)
JesseR409
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JesseR409,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/7/2013 | 12:50:08 PM
Re: Good deal at $99, otherwise...
You can share apps between your desktop, laptop and tablet on windows 8. This has not be realized yet, by many buyers. For the price of an Apple laptop, you can get a Windows 8 laptop and tablet. I can run software that is over ten years old on my windows 8 laptop. So if you want a tablet that can access CAD, blueprints, interface with a PLC, and play angry birds, then buy Win 8. But if you want to post to facebook and watch adult movies, then The A A tablets are great.
TylaG
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TylaG,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/7/2013 | 1:22:47 PM
Data collection
One area these can of tablets can really shine is mobile data collection. Yes, you can do it on the iPad but you're limited basically to FileMaker, a database which is at least one generation behind anything on Windows. And Android apps ares still struggling in that area. But a tablet running full Windows has quite a few alternatives -- and totally compatoible with what most folks (sigh) are still running on their desktops and/or internal networks.

 
ricegf
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ricegf,
User Rank: Guru
12/7/2013 | 1:37:22 PM
Re: Good deal at $99, otherwise...
Interesting points, Jesse, thanks.

One problem with running many legacy apps on a small-screen touch Celeron-class tablet is that they run poorly - this is why so few of the first 10 years of Windows tablets sold (yes, I tried one), and why Apple didn't make a "tablet Mac" but instead an optimized incompatible touch product that conquered the market for a while. But as I said, if you have a legacy Windows-only app that you MUST run on a tablet, the Venue makes sense.

As far as accessing CAD and blueprints, most large corporations accomplish this with iPads using a cloud server (such as with Citrix) to host the application, and one of many apps on the tablet for encrypted remote access.  As a bonus, it will run FAR better than a Celeron can support - which is important especially for heavy work such as CAD (though security and data management is also a large concern).  Microsoft recommends this approach for heavy program access on their own tablets, by the way, for these reasons.

Modern programmable logic controllers can be programmed on both iPad and Android (and Windows and Linux and Macs) of course, so I'm not sure exactly where you're going with that one.

Angry Birds was actually LATE to Windows - it originally shipped for iPhone in Dec 2009, followed shortly by a version for Nokia's Linux tablets, then iPad in Apr 2010, Palm Pre in Aug 2010, and Symbian^3 and Android in Oct 2010. It arrived on Chromebooks and operating systems running the Chrome browser (including Windows) in May 2011, and last on Windows Phone in Jun 2011. Not sure that was your best choice there.

You are correct that lack of a native Facebook app was another complaint long lodged against Windows mobile devices, though that has since been remedied. Facebook is pretty ubiquitous now.

However, though I'm not the expert you are, I understand that many adult movies still require Silverlight, which is an example of a fading legacy program that I mentioned the Venue DID offer as an advantage - Silverlight was a Windows-only Flash competitor best known for keeping Mac users from watching the Olympics on-line (ahem).

So in the end I don't find your argument is very compelling. You certainly shouldn't argue app availability!   Instead, consider the Venue for what it is - a very decent and (with the current sale) fairly price-competitive alternative to the dominate iPad and Android mobile platforms. If you like it, buy it, and I'll rejoice with you!

Best wishes!

 
mattt1986
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mattt1986,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/7/2013 | 2:40:28 PM
iPad envy
Why do tech writers always try to compare new tablets to the ipad,? Sure it's the gold standard... But if you are in the market for a Hyundai Accent, you probably don't care how it stacks up to a Rolls Royce. Different strokes for different folks.
tetraclit
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tetraclit,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/7/2013 | 5:24:57 PM
Re: iPad envy
maybe because rolls royce is a wrong analogy (rolls cost > 100 X accent).

try toyota camry with Tesla S
tetraclit
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tetraclit,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/7/2013 | 5:28:07 PM
20 for $99... to alienate the rest of the clueless customers
good job, monkeysoft.... you are history.
samicksha
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samicksha,
User Rank: Strategist
12/7/2013 | 11:27:37 PM
Re: Good deal at $99, otherwise...
I guess MS should see some good traffic at their stores with this deal, also i am little curious ..what if APPLE does same kind of discount job...
awebb199
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awebb199,
User Rank: Strategist
12/8/2013 | 1:52:09 AM
Using the same OS is more productive
Running the same Windows 8.1 OS on desktop, laptop, and tablet makes me more productive than using different ones.  I bought a Nexus 7 a year ago, and it was not productive to use a foreign environment.  It more or less sits in a drawer.  I have had a Venue 8 Pro for a week, and it is working out much better.  The Windows button position is fine, so is battery life, processor speed, and display resolution. Intel is getting much better with the new generation of Atoms, and the 3740D has the same performance as an Apple A7.

This is a small touch computer that shared my Internet favorites, email setups, and apps out of the box.  And both desktop and Store apps work on all my systems now.

 
ricegf
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ricegf,
User Rank: Guru
12/8/2013 | 7:25:09 AM
Re: Good deal at $99, otherwise...
@Amicksha, certainly Apple would sell a ocean-going shipload of tablets if they put the iPad Mini on a similar $99 / $199 firesale deal. I certainly wouldn't expect that to happen this year, though, as they are holding around half the USA market while raking in profits with premium pricing. Besides, I've never noticed Apple caring one whit about market share; they seem to optimize for profits rather well, though. :-)

Amazon has the opposite philosophy - ignore profits, buy market share - and has already offered a pretty sweet $179 limited time deal (since expired) on their brand-new-for-Christmas Fire 7 HDX. Since they never publish sales figures, though, I can't evaluate the extent that it goosed sales. Pretty significant, I'd guess.

When Google put the "old" Nexus 7 on sale to clear inventory for the "new" Nexus 7 earlier this year, they were gone in a matter of hours. Thought I heard a sonic boom over Mountain View.

But who can forget the HP TouchPad 10" tablet that sold for a brief shining moment for $99 two years ago. Even with a dead-end (yet beautiful) OS, if they had put them in a physical store, it would be a black hole even today!

@aweb199, "This is a small touch computer that shared my Internet favorites, email setups, and apps out of the box".  That's a great point - a major driver in choice of tablet platform is your investment in a particular ecosystem. If you've used Apple's services for years, the iPad is the obvious choice; if Google, then Android; if Amazon, then Fire; and if Microsoft, as in your case, then Windows.

It was really only Microsoft's lack of a cloud ecosystem and very late entry into the touch market that allowed over 90% of their customers to jump to Apple and Android. It will be interesting to see if they can woo them back now. So glad you found a tablet you love! (I'd consider selling that Nexus 7 on Craigslist right now, btw - they are in pretty high demand for Christmas, even if it's the "old" version.)
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