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.