Microsoft Sells Dell's Venue 8 Pro Tablet For $99 - InformationWeek

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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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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 2:51:03 PM
Re: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet (32 GB)
Thanks for responding-- and I'm glad you like your device! I hadn't heard about vouchers being handed out after stocks were depleted, though I know some U.S. Microsoft stores received additional inventory later in the day, which allowed them to extend the $199 deal.

Did anyone else have an experience like this?
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 2:30:04 PM
Re: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet (32 GB)
Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm curious: After the $99 tablets had sold out, how many people went ahead and bought the device at $199? Did some of the people in line leave after the heaviest discounts were off the table?

And how are you liking the device? Among Windows mini-tablets (not necessarily tablets in general), it seems like one of the nicer options. Windows tablets rely on Office for a lot of their appeal-- but as I indicated in the article, I'm not sure how appealing people will find Office on such a small screen.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 10:12:36 PM
Re: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet (32 GB)
Sorry, no, not correct.

If you looked at Microsoft's website in the last several hours, it makes sense that you saw $299 listed as the price. The reduced prices were only valid until stock levels were depleted. Microsoft said that the online deal sold out almost immediately.So it's been something like ten hours since the site would have said anything other than $299.

But since there still seems to be confusion, let me be unequivocal: That Microsoft put the device on sale is beyond refuting. Several comments in this thread testify to as much, as do half a dozen threads on Reddit, to say nothing of numerous other sources across the Internet. I've also spoken to many people today (both Microsoft employees and Microsoft customers) about the sale. The fact that the price currently says $299 is merely evience that the sale is already over. It's clear that many people did not like the way the sale was executed, but the sale did indeed occur.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 5:46:53 PM
Re: Office home is not included
Yep, I just found this thread: http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/mobile-devices/f/4586/t/19533657.aspx


A few other people have had the same issue, from the look of it. Glad it didn't take long to get it worked out!
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 4:28:32 PM
Re: Office home is not included
This is the first I've heard about it.

I suggest asking them why their own product page says Office Home and Student is included.  http://holiday.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/html/pbPage.PDP/productID.289455200?Icid=12DaysHero_Link_DellVenue_120913
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 3:20:26 PM
Re: I got mine
I'm not really a Windows 8 user but I'd try it for $99.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 11:40:29 AM
What Microsoft PR said Monday morning
Okay, if anyone visited a retail location and was told that there were never any $99 units available, I suggest you call the store and demand an explanation. Below is what I was just emailed by Microsoft PR, in response to the conflicting reports that have floated around this morning:

"With each of the 12 Days of Deals, the daily doorbuster is for the first 20 customers in line. So today, the Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet was/is $99 for the first 20 customers and $199 thereafter until supplies last.

Tomorrow, customers can get a Garmin Forerunner 110 Fitness watch plus a $25 gift card for $129.99 as supplies last. The daily doorbuster for the first 20 customers inside the store is the Garmin Fitness Watch and $25 gift card for $99.99.

All Microsoft retail stores are going live with these deals each day until the 20th and all  store managers can speak to them."


So there you have it.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 1:40:19 AM
Re: iPad envy
I suppose if you read a lot of tech stories, you might get tired of repeated iPad comparisons, but here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) The iPad has WAY more market share than Rolls Royce. In fact, the iPad is the most used single line of tablets. That alone makes it a sensible point of comparison when discussing new products in the same category.

2) The iPad Mini is a particularly apt comparison, given the Venue Pro costs the same (outside of Monday's promotion) as the cheapest iPad Mini.

3) Maybe it wasn't clear, but "Different strokes for different folks" was sort of the point of the iPad comparison--e.g. "[T]he Venue 8 Pro's major sales draw isn't touch apps; it's support for desktop software, particularly Microsoft Office."
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 1:34:13 AM
Re: Microsoft claims false report
Okay, since it's Sunday night here on the West Coast, I haven't had luck reaching anyone outside Microsoft's call centers. But I spoke to a call center supervisor (she said she couldn't give her full name) based in New York. I can report the following:

-- If a customer service rep said outright that the deal was false, the customer service rep spoke outside of Microsoft policy. The supervisor told me that company policy is to say, "We cannot confirm that" in response to situations such as this one. The reps should not have denied the price, and they should not have suggested (as some readers have reported to me) that InformationWeek (or any other publication reporting this deal) was wrong.

-- Microsoft customer service is basically in the dark on this deal until it is live. The supervisor told me that they don't have access to pricing information until the deal is active. So basically, the people I talked to in Microsoft PR knew about this deal, but at least some of the people in Microsoft customer service (perhaps all?) knew nothing.

-- My assumption is that some people called Microsoft customer support around midight EST, asking why they couldn't find the Venue 8 Pro deal. Because the deal doesn't go live until 7 AM Pacific (not a detail the supervisor could confirm even at this point, btw), the reps wouldn't have seen the pricing info.The reps should have said, "I cannot confirm that," but based on what I've heard from some readers, it appears at least some of them said something more like, "No, all the articles about that deal are wrong."
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 12:33:12 AM
Re: Microsoft claims false report
As I've pointed out elsewhere, the deal isn't live yet. A website I linked to previously indicates it will go live at 7:00 AM Pacific. I can't account for why Microsoft's customer service agents are evidently in the dark. But I have documented confirmation from Microsoft about this deal. If the deal does turn out to be false, rest assured I'll run a story Monday morning that includes the email, and that asks why Microsoft would intentionally perpetuate false information.

 Edit: Hyperlinks aren't visible in the post for some reason, but the word "website" in item 3 of the list I posted above includes the link to Microsoft's deal promo page. I also inserted the link into the word "website" in the previous sentence.
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