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10/4/2013
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Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals

Microsoft's Surface tablets gain a bit of momentum, but Microsoft faces new competition from Dell and continuing heat from Apple.

 Microsoft Surface: 10 Best And Worst Changes
Microsoft Surface: 10 Best And Worst Changes
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Microsoft is close to selling out its pre-order inventory of Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets, according to a tweet from the official Microsoft Developer Twitter account.

The news adds to recent momentum for Microsoft's maligned tablets, including several major enterprise and institutional deployments and increased developer support for Windows 8's Modern UI. Still, Microsoft's refreshed slates could struggle to stand out in the crowded field. Competition will include not only familiar foes such as Apple's iPad, but also other Windows tablets, including Dell's just-announced Venue Pro line.

Forrester analyst David Johnson said in an email that whereas Microsoft is still finding its identity as a device maker, partners such as Dell and HP are now "getting their supply chains for tablets ironed out." The result, he said, is thinner, lighter, and higher-quality Windows tablets that should be more attractive than earlier models.

Johnson said Dell's Venue models in particular are "compelling at first blush" and that he doesn't see Microsoft's Surface line gaining significant ground amid so much competition.

[ Trying to integrate tablets into your workforce? Read The Good And Bad Of Tablets At Work. ]

The Venue 11 Pro delivers many of the Surface Pro 2's features without the Pro 2's high $899 base price. Dell's tablet offers a 10.6-inch 1080p screen, slightly bigger than the Pro 2's equally high-resolution display; up to 8 GB of RAM, same as the Surface Pro 2's top configurations; and up to 256 GB of SSD storage, not quite as big as the 512 GB drive found in Microsoft's highest-end model.

Venue 11 Pro buyers can choose either Intel's new "Bay Trail" Atom chip or one of Intel's most powerful fourth-generation "Haswell" chips, a version of which also powers the Surface Pro 2. The Venue 11 Pro also supports most of the same accessories as the Pro 2, including a stylus, an attachable keyboard and a docking station.

It's not yet clear how a Venue 11 Pro will perform relative to an equally well-equipped Surface Pro 2. Microsoft VP Panos Panay said last month that the Surface Pro will be faster than 95% of laptops, and Microsoft representatives have repeatedly characterized the device as an ultrabook, not a tablet. Surface director Cyril Belikoff told InformationWeek that the device's speed comes not only from Intel's Haswell processor, but also from the Surface Pro 2's engineering.

But even if Dell's tablet offers only 90% of the Surface Pro 2's performance, the Venue Pro 11 starts at just $499, well below the Surface Pro 2's $899. Dell hasn't yet disclosed the price of more powerful configurations or accessories, so it's not clear how cost will compare when the devices are comparably equipped. But would-be Surface buyers could be persuaded if Dell follows through by undercutting the Surface Pro 2's prices.

As for the 8-inch Venue 8 Pro, it doesn't compete in the same market as the larger Surface 2, per se, but both devices will be competing for many of the same buyers looking for a low-cost, ultra-mobile Windows tablet.

Several factors make the Surface 2 and Venue 8 Pro tough to compare. The 8 Pro lacks the Surface 2's screen real estate, and it's also hard to say how Dell's tablet, which uses an Intel Bay Trail processor, will perform relative to the Surface 2, which uses an ARM-based Nvidia Tegra 4 processor. It's also unclear how popular traditional Windows software will be on the Dell tablet's relatively small screen.

Nonetheless, the 8 Pro boasts a 1080p display, is less than 9 mm thick, weighs under a pound, includes a mini-USB port and runs the full version of Windows 8.1, desktop apps included. The Venue 8 Pro starts at just $299 and -- unlike the execrable Acer Iconia W3, the first Windows mini-tablet -- might be a product people actually want to use.

The same might be said of the Surface 2, which is much nicer than its predecessor. However, it starts at $150 more than the 8 Pro, still doesn't come with a keyboard, and is limited to Modern UI apps. To buyers that want an ultra-mobile Windows tablet, the Venue Pro 8 might offer a more compelling package.

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BobB481
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BobB481,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/5/2013 | 3:08:34 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
Make 1000 available,, claim they are selling out . . next, claim a shortage... etc etc.. keeps the idiot consumer panting for it...
Apple does this every release... works wonders..
Political Poop
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Political Poop,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/5/2013 | 4:16:35 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
They sold out because they gave them away to Delta Airlines. As far as Dell goes, I'll NEVER buy another Dell product again.
dbtinc
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dbtinc,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/6/2013 | 12:52:55 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
works well for Apple, not so much for MS!
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/6/2013 | 5:48:34 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
Since, as usual, Microsoft refuses to give out hard numbers, which they know, any statements about selling out pre orders must remain under suspicion. I'm surprised at you Endler, haven't you learned anything? Ballmer was touting how well Surface was doing earlier, and those lies came back to bite him. Why would you believe Microsoft now? You really can't give them the benefit of the doubt, because not only have they not earned it, but they have shown that they can't be trusted.

The entry of Dell's new devices is something that we will need to keep track of, because there is nothing yet to show that they will fare any better than any of Dell's earlier offerings.

I certainly wouldn't be talking about Win 8 tablet momentum until we have some proof of it, such as reports of rising use from those companies who report on that. Little else matters.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/6/2013 | 5:52:57 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
Except that Apple makes several million, and still runs out of them, as you do know. Your attempt at a put down fails in their case. Microsoft has been caught lying about Surface sales to the point of almost a $1 billion write off. Ballmer has had his bonus cut because of it, and there is a shareholder suit going on because of it.

It's believed that Surface's poor showing is a major reason why Ballmer has been fired.

Those are facts. You can love them or hate them. You can't change them.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/6/2013 | 5:57:59 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
Guys like you are very amusing. I doubt you've even bought one of Microsoft's losers.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2013 | 7:43:40 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
I probably shouldn't have buried this paragraph on the second page, but the article acknowledges that Microsoft's "nearly sold-out" inventory might not mean much:

"But these signs aren't convincing. Without knowing how much presale inventory Microsoft made available, it's premature to characterize the preorders as a triumph. Given how poorly the Surface RT sold, constrained supplies could simply mean Microsoft produced fewer units this time."

There's plenty of reason to be skeptical of Microsoft's tweet, and (as the end of the article notes) even its recent high-profile deployments, such as Delta. But the issue has shades of gray.

On the issue of whether Dell's tablets are worth paying attention to, for example: I think they warrant consideration because a) they're very competitively priced; b) their specs are much more attractive.

Other indications of rising Windows tablet momentum include recent data from IDC and other research firms; most of them generally agree Windows 8 will not be deployed en mass in the enterprise but feel that Win 8 will nonetheless gain enterprise tablet market share via division or group-level mobile deployments. Most of the analysts also agree that Windows 8 won't displace the iPad's spot in the enterprise, which makes it all a little hazy.

Your skepticism toward Win 8.1's prospects isn't unwarranted. Dell's new machines are attractively priced and the hardware seems nice. But they'll still Windows 8.1. Ditto for Microsoft's new Surfaces. They're both nice (albeit expensive) machines, but they both still run Windows 8.1. I think Windows 8.1 is an improvement, and Microsoft's Surface tablets - with their SkyDrive and Skype ties - point toward the ecosystem of integrated services Microsoft is trying to build. But if buyers truly dislike Windows 8, better prices and new hardware might not help. Microsoft could always surprise us with the final release, but at face value, Windows 8.1 is a targeted and iterative evolution, not a major overhaul.

That's really what this second generation of Windows tablets will provide-- a referendum on the Live Tile UI, if not also on the current appeal of hybrid form factors. The first generation of devices was hampered by poor pricing and clunky hardware. The new generation of devices has these problems figured out, to varying extents. If sales are still lackluster, it'll be hard to blame anything except the OS, and perhaps the brand of convergence it's trying to provide.

My intuition, though, is that sales will trend up. Windows tablets will still get clobbered by Android and iOS devices this year, even if Apple does its competitors a favor by not announcing a Retina iPad Mini until 2014 (per the recent rumor making the rounds online). But it's a big and growing market, and even if Windows tablets are in third place, they can still sell enough units to carve out a role.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2013 | 7:55:35 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
Yeah, I don't think there's any way to compare Apple having limited supplies of, say, the iPhone 5S and Microsoft having limited supplies earlier this year of the original Surface Pro. I mean, Microsoft could astonish everyone in the next couple weeks by announcing an incredible number of presales-- but none of the MIcrosoft's past "sold out" devices have been anything like Apple's, so I wouldn't count on it.

Still, if Microsoft has any promising data, I think they should hold onto it for the moment. It's likely that Apple will announce an new iPad and new MacBook Pros just a couple days before Microsoft launches Windows 8.1 and its new Surfaces. Apple, in other words, is poised to steal Microsoft's thunder, at least in the mass market. If Microsoft has some great stats to share, it'll need them to steal some thunder back. If all Microsoft can do is point to the number of Windows 8.1 activations (which are inevitable, since it's free to existing Win 8 customers), you'll know it's falling flat.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2013 | 8:27:24 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
Agreed, as the article says at the end. Large-capacity Surface Pros and even discounted Surface RTs have sold out in the past, but neither meant much in the end.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2013 | 1:15:53 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Vs. Dell Venue: Tablet Rivals
"It also suggests Windows 8 hasn't persuaded users that convergence is the way forward, and raises doubts about whether Windows 8.1 adds enough to change their minds."

Convergence is inevitable and it has nothing to do with Windows 8. Folks are buying keyboards for their tablets and they want no more than two devices that do it all (a tablet and a phone.) Laptops replaced desktops several years ago. Using tablets like laptops will cause them to replace laptops. Resistance is futile for the same reason folks ditched desktops for laptops.
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