Should Microsoft Kill the Surface?

Motley Fool’s Ashraf Eassa observes that it’s clear Microsoft is serious about its Surface tablet PC products. However, he notes that while Microsoft’s Surface efforts are good, it looks as though devices coming from Microsoft’s longtime hardware partners are even better, and that Dell’s new Venue tablet lineup in particular looks great.

Eassa cites in particular that the Dell Venue 8 Pro and Venue 11 Pro look to be even more attractive than Microsoft’s own offerings – both freaturing the full version of Windows 8.1 and not the scaled-down Windows RT that can’t run legacy applications or work with many legacy peripherals. Which means that users – particularly those interested in the 11 Pro – can run all of their standard desktop applications while at the same time running the latest touch-enabled “Modern UI,” and while Microsoft’s bulky and expensive Surface Pro 2 can also claim this functionality, it does so at nearly twice the price.

As we reported here Friday, the Dell Venue 8 Pro and Dell Venue 11 Pro Windows 8.1-based tablets combine the ability to integrate into an existing corporate environment with full compatibility with current Windows applications and Microsoft Office integration.

The lightweight Dell Venue 8 Pro is powered by an Intel Atom Quad Core processor with 2 GB of RAM, runs Windows 8.1, has an 8-inch 1280×800 (same resolution as the 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro) HD IPS display, has advanced connectivity options and is claimed to provide long enough battery life that range anxiety is no longer an issue, and is available with 32 GB or 64 GB data storage capacity. Its front/rear cameras support 1.2MP/5MP respectively Users can also stay productive with Office 2013 Home & Student, included with the device, and the optional Dell Active Stylus. The Venue 8 Pro will be available in either black or red.

The Dell Venue 11 Pro, also based on Windows 8.1, provides 2-in-1 flexibility with the power of an Ultrabook, convenience of a detachable keyboard and experience of a desktop.

Intel Core processors (up to Core i5) and 2 GB of RAM provide desktop application performance. Unlike Apple’s iPad tablets, it has a user removable/replaceable battery, a large, 10.8-inch 1920×1080 full HD display with wide viewing angles, front/rear cameras of 2MP/8MP respectively, and is available with 32 GB or 64 GB data storage capacity and a variety of keyboard and stylus options. On the downside, the Venue Pro models are available only in black, but this still has to be the most attractive cost/benefit value available in a tablet for production oriented use.

The Dell Venue 8 Pro will be available from October 18 on in the United States and select countries around the world. The Venue 11 Pro, XPS 11 will be available in November. Starting prices are:
• Venue 8 Pro: $299.99
• Venue 11 Pro: $499.99

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Further, Eassa notes a clear trend toward smaller tablets, and Dell’s launch of an 8-inch, $299 tablet that comes with an Intel quad core Atom, full Windows 8.1, and a copy of Office Home & Student really seems to hit exactly what customers are likely to want from a pure tablet. And while there’s little doubt Microsoft will roll out its own 8-inch device, it will likely again come packed with Windows RT (not full Windows 8.1), which could damage the value proposition.

Eassa observes that it looks as though Dell has done a great job, and that if marketed correctly, its new table products should help drive share for Dell, Intel’s tablet processors, and Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 OS, and moreover seeing Dell execute so well on these devices seriously calls into question the need and the viability of Microsoft’s Surface strategy.

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