Tag Archives: dell

Dell to fix flaw of its own making that puts its computers at risk

The company acknowledges it recently sold PCs loaded with a form of identification that could make them vulnerable to cyberattack.

dell-xps-15-oct150010Computer maker Dell warned late Monday of a security hole affecting recently shipped computers that could leave users vulnerable to hackers.

The issue affects computers made by Dell that come with a particular preinstalled customer service program. Through a certificate that would identify the computer to Dell support staff, this program makes the computers vulnerable to intrusions and could allow hackers to access encrypted messages to and from the machines, Dell said. There is also a risk that attackers could attempt to reroute Internet traffic to sites that look genuine but are in fact dangerous imitations.

Dell said that customers should take steps to remove the certificate from their laptops, offering instructions on how to do that manually. Starting Tuesday, it also plans to push a software update to computers to check for the certificate and then remove it.

“Customer security and privacy is a top concern and priority,” the Round Rock, Texas-based company said in a statement. Dell did not respond to a request for more information.

Security researcher Brian Krebs said that the problem affects all new Dell desktops and laptops shipped since August. That would mean a vast number of computers are at risk. In the third quarter,Dell shipped more than 10 million PCs around the world, according to market researcher IDC.

The disclosure by Dell is another sign of the dangers that lurk as we check our bank accounts online, go shopping via Amazon and share personal information over Facebook. While big data breaches at retailers like Target and Home Depot affect thousands of people all at once, consumers can also be hit much closer to home through their own laptops and smartphones.

Even as they’ve become attuned to taking security precautions, though, consumers typically don’t have to worry about brand-new technology they’ve just brought home from the store. For sure, some programs that computer manufacturers install can prove irritating or cumbersome. The revelation that one might be genuinely dangerous has the potential to erode trust in the computer in one’s hands and in the company that supplied it.

This isn’t the first time this year that out-of-the-box PCs have contained vulnerabilities. Some Lenovo laptops were found to have a similar security flaw thanks to a preloaded program called Superfish. This software altered search results to show different ads, but it also tampered with the computer’s security. It was eventually fixed with a specially released tool.

Dell said that its certificate isn’t adware or malware, nor was it used to collect personal information.

The program in question is being removed from all new Dell computers, the company said, and once it is properly removed according to the recommended process, it will not reinstall itself.

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Dell to Announce $50 Billion EMC Takeover Tomorrow

Privately held Dell is expected to announce Monday a takeover of storage technology firm EMC in a deal worth more than $50 billion.

For a deal expected to be the largest tech deal of all time, it is telling that top executives at Dell, who would have normally been consulted ahead of the deal announcement were not informed of the talks. Many of them were traveling overseas when the news first leaked, sources briefed on the talks. The talks between the companies have been conducted directly between CEOs Michael Dell and EMC’s Joe Tucci, sources told Re/code.

The secretive nature of the talks hints at the fact that numerous terms had not been finalized as of late Sunday night. One of those terms, sources said, is a collar intended to protect both parties from movements in the value of EMC shares after the deal is announced.

The deal also contains a go-shop provision that will allow EMC to seek superior offers from other companies. That term is seen as window-dressing, as the only other realistic suitors for EMC — Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Cisco Systems and IBM — are considered unlikely to bid.

Sources say the offer will include cash amounting to $27.25 per EMC share, plus the additional value of tracking stock to account for the value of EMC’s stake in the cloud software firm VMware that would bring the value of the transaction to over $30 per share.  Dell intends to maintain majority control of VMware but will likely sell or distribute a portion of EMC’s equity in VMware to raise cash and offset some of the debt it will have to raise to finance the purchase.

Dell is seeking to raise cash by issuing high-yield bonds that will be linked to equity in the combined company. It’s a risky bet on debt markets especially given that U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates before the end of the year. A higher interest rate would raise the cost of financing and make the bonds themselves less attractive to debt investors.

Also uncertain is whether Elliott Management, the activist hedge fund that is EMC’s seventh-largest shareholder, will support the deal. Elliott has pressured EMC to spin off its stake in VMware as a way of boosting shareholder value. Representatives of Elliott, Dell and EMC were not immediately reachable.

The timing of the announcement was first reported by Bloomberg and a provision to continue to seek other offers by EMC was reported by Reuters.

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With Dell’s help, Google pushes Chrome-based laptops beyond budget buyers

Google’s challenger to Microsoft Windows has found a successful niche in schools. With the Dell Chromebook 13, Google hopes to lure business buyers and others who want a premium product.

Google’s high-end, high-priced Chromebook Pixel laptop became a market success in its creators’ eyes on Thursday — by influencing the design of a more affordable competitor from Dell.

The $1,299 Chromebook Pixel from 2013 and $999 Chromebook Pixel 2 introduced this year both run Chrome OS, Google’s browser-based operating system designed to challenge Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OS X. Chromebooks have had limited appeal, in part because they run Web-based apps like Google Docs and Facebook but not traditional PC software like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, and the Pixel models’ high prices cut that appeal even further.

But the Pixels succeeded in their mission to influence more mainstream Chromebooks, said Rajen Sheth, leader of Google’s work to push Chrome OS in businesses and schools, in an interview here at Google headquarters.

“In the early days of Chromebooks, most were low-priced plasticky devices. There’s charm to that, but there are also premium users who want to have a better device,” Sheth said. “The Pixel is the best Chromebook out there. This Dell is going to be easily the second best and at a much more affordable price.”

The Dell Chromebook 13 starts at $399 for a laptop with a metal exterior, carbon fiber cover, 13-inch 1,920×1,080 screen, Intel Celeron processor, 2 gigabytes of memory and 16GB of storage. Prices range up to $899 for models with touch screens and more powerful brains. For full details, check out my colleague Dan Ackerman’s look at the Dell Chromebook 13.

Chromebooks embody Google’s seemingly boundless ambition. The OS X and Linux operating systems have barely dented the dominance of Microsoft’s Windows on PCs, but Google thinks Chrome OS can. Success will mean more options for consumers and laptops that are accessible to low-budget buyers like schools and people in poorer nations.

Chromebooks are a success in schools, but their reliance on a network connection and inability to run a lot of Windows programs means they’re not a mainstream product, said Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa. Still, they accounted for 8.1 percent of portable computer shipments in the first quarter of 2015 in the United States, she said. That figure should rise to 10.6 percent for the full year and rise further to 12.4 percent for 2016, she added.

Strong in schools

Schools like Chromebooks for a couple of reasons. “First, the hardware is extremely cheap. Second, the teachers can control what they provide to the kids and restrict what kids can access,” she said. “It’s perfect for K-12,” when students are between about 5 and 18 years old.

Sheth attributes Chromebooks’ educational success to their low cost — including low management costs. They’re centrally managed so teachers don’t waste time handling tech support, he said.

In addition, the devices are easily shared, with students’ data and settings stored in the cloud and retrieved when they log in. And Google Apps for Education, free to schools and now with more than 45 million students using it daily, offers low-cost software for word processing, email, file sharing, presentations and chatting. It’s working well enough that Google says it’s pushing aside Apple’s iPad, Sheth said.

Rajen Sheth, Google director of Chrome OS for businesses and schools

“Previously, iPads used to dominate education in the US. Now Chromebooks are far and away the leading device in the US,” Sheth said.

Business push

Now, Google hopes to push Chrome OS more into businesses, too. The low purchasing and management costs are a big part of the sales pitch there, too.

“There are 4 billion working adults in the world, but only about 750 million PCs,” Sheth said. “With the Chromebook, companies are able to expand the population of users who have access to those devices.”

Retailer Woolworth’s is on board, with mainstream Chromebooks for employees and Pixels for executives. And now Starbucks is signing up, with Chromebooks available for employees to use for things like shift scheduling and human resources. Netflix, too, is using Chromebooks in stores.

Chrome OS devices are about half the cost to buy and operate compared to traditional PCs, said Manesh Patel, chief information officer of electronics manufacturer Sanmina, at a Chromebook 13 launch event in San Francisco. Sanmina uses Chromebooks in its factory floor, but now is expanding to the “knowledge workers” that are a core market for Microsoft Windows and Office today.

“We see over the next two years growing from 200 to 300 Chrome OS devices today to 10 to 15 times that,” Patel said. The company has 23,000 employees total, so that would be roughly a tenth of the workforce.

Business users will appreciate the Dell Chromebook 13’s build quality, Sheth said. “We believe Chromebooks are now ready for work,” he said.

Gartner’s Kitagawa doesn’t see businesses as such a good market — at least in developed countries where customers are already familiar with Windows and rely on a host of Windows programs.

Google recognizes software compatibility is a sticking point for Chrome OS in business, but it’s working on fixes, including server software from Citrix that lets companies run the software on central servers but let users tap into them with Chromebooks over the network. At its launch event, Dell demonstrated its Chromebook 13 running not just Web apps like Google Hangouts, but also Windows apps like Adobe Systems’ Photoshop and Microsoft Office.

“Making Windows apps work well on a Chromebook is key,” Sheth said.

Consumers leery

Google has long argued Chrome OS is good for consumers, too. A cheap Chromebook can be good to leave around the living room for answering email, checking Facebook, looking up recipes and helping with homework.

For now, though, consumers are staying away for the most part, Kitagawa said. Chromebooks have a high return rate because they’re affordable and look good, but customers can be surprised when they don’t work as expected: no Skype, no Windows video games, no Microsoft Office.

But she doesn’t rule them out in the long run.

“It’s going to change,” Kitagawa said. “I don’t known how long it’ll take, but in the future, everything is going to be up on your cloud. At some point a device like a Chromebook will be perfect.”

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Dell Inspiron 15 5000 15.6-inch 1080p touchscreen laptop for $700

Today, Dell is offering up a substantial discount on the Inspiron 15 5000 touchscreen laptop. If you’re currently in the market for a new portable powerhouse, this is the perfect time to buy. With a full HD display, a new Broadwell processor, and a sizable hard drive, this laptop offers a full-fledged computing experience wherever you go.

Inspiron 15 5000Inside, this model features a fifth generation dual-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U CPU, integrated Intel HD Graphics 5500, 8GB of DDR3L RAM (1600MHz), a 1TB 5400RPM hard drive, a DVD burner, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi support. As for the 15.6-inch screen, it benefits from a 1920×1080 resolution, LED backlighting, and touch sensitivity.

Better yet, the Inspiron 15 5000 ships with Windows 10 Home (64-bit) already installed. Not only will you get access to loads of new features like Cortana and Xbox One local game streaming, but you’ll also benefit from the significant user interface improvements. Switching back and forth between tapping and typing has never been easier than it is now with Windows 10.

Even if you typically lean towards desktop PCs, this laptop has a lot to love. The touchpad is larger and more precise than previous models, the backlit keyboard is spill-resistant, and it even sports a full keypad on the right-hand side. And since it has a built-in HDMI port, you can easily plug into your monitor when you’re at your desk.

Typically, this configuration retails for $979.99, but Dell is offering a steep discount when you buy from them directly. When you use coupon code “50OFF599” in your shopping cart, your subtotal will drop all the way down to $599 — over 38% off the sticker price. This sale won’t last forever, though, so don’t wait too long.

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Dell XPS 8700 quad-core desktop PC for $675

Laptops and tablets are dandy, but neither of them can offer the same bang for your buck as a traditional tower PC. So if portability isn’t important to you, you’re definitely better off investing in a desktop PC like the XPS 8700 from Dell. It’s powerful, incredibly flexible, and it’s currently on sale for 27% off of the initial asking price.

Dell XPS 8700On the inside, this configuration features a fourth generation quad-core 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-4790 processor, a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 720 (with 1GB of memory), 8GB of DDR3 RAM (1600MHz), a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive, a tray loading DVD burner, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11b/g/n WiFi support. On top of that, it also comes with a wired keyboard and mouse, so you’re already set if you plan on using an existing monitor or HDTV.

While the XPS 8700 still ships with Windows 8.1 (64-bit) installed, you’ll be eligible to upgrade to Windows 10 at no additional cost. So if you feel like upgrading the graphics card down the road, and turning this desktop into a gaming PC, you’ll have access to DirectX 12 for free. And since the built-in Xbox app allows you to stream your Xbox One games directly to your PC, even console gamers will benefit from Redmond’s latest OS.

Usually, this model sells for roughly $930, but Dell is offering it now for $749.99 on its online store. And if you use coupon code “4DPTKJ11F523L?” in your shopping cart, you’ll save and additional $75. When you take advantage of Dell’s free shipping, you’ll only end up spending $674.99 (plus any applicable taxes). This deal won’t last forever, though, so act fast.

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Dell tries stealing creative pros away from the Mac

Ad agencies, film producers and photo editors have sustained Apple’s Mac business for decades. But sensing Apple’s eye is off the ball, Dell is pushing hard to attract those lucrative buyers.

Adam Wrigley, a product designer at Frog Design, is the kind of creative professional you might expect to see using a Mac. But when choosing between Apple and Dell for his most recent laptop, he settled on the Dell.

“I wanted to get as much hardware as I could,” he said of his choice. “With the Mac, I couldn’t afford a bunch of features.”

That’s music to Dell’s ears. For decades, a core group of creative professionals sustained Apple’s personal-computer business by buying Macs for editing photos, producing videos and designing ads. It’s a lucrative, loyal base of customers with a taste for high-end hardware — and a potentially critical market for Dell to target as it tries to rebuild its PC business.

“I don’t think it’s a big focus for them,” Chief Executive Michael Dell said of Apple’s efforts in the market for high-end machines for design professionals. Dell, in contrast, has 40 percent to 45 percent of the market for workstations, Dell said. Combined with its high-resolution external monitors, it’s “a special focus market that we’re clearly doing well in.”

Sensing a potential vulnerability, Dell representatives are showing up at film festivals to court the creative folks, and Dell engineers are designing machines like the M3800 laptop to try fulfilling their need for horsepower and style.

“Rich content is a high-growth market, and it’s one where Apple is very strong,” said Andy Rhodes, leader of Dell’s Precision workstation business. “They have high market share. But customers are telling us Apple is not investing in the future of that market.”

It’s no wonder Dell has Apple envy. In 1997, Michael Dell said Apple should “shut…down and give the money back to shareholders.” Two years later, Dell had clawed its way to the top of the PC market, beginning a long reign there. But fortunes have reversed now: Dell is struggling to rebuild in a faltering PC market while Apple’s Mac revenue grew 9 percent in the last quarter and unit shipments grew 11 percent.

Apple is still strong with the creative professionals, but Dell is smart to pounce. More than two years ago, customers started telling Dell that Apple wasn’t serving them well, in particular because of Apple’s botched transition from its respected Final Cut Pro 7 video-editing software to its radically different Final Cut Pro X. Dell spun up what it calls “customer-inspired roadmap creation” to make products that would get creative pros to switch off their Macs, said Rhodes.

Dell is trying to bring style and polish to its products for the market, but Dell’s core values — performance at the right price — remain at the center of the sales pitch. That’s compelling for companies like video production firm Dawnrunner Productions, whose video-rendering times dropped 25 percent to 30 percent after switching from Macs to Dells, according to Chief Executive James Fox.

“It was a very scary move,” Fox said. “When we pulled the trigger, we all said, ‘Wow, that was really easy.'”

‘Slow exodus’

Apple, which didn’t comment for this story, is a very different company now than even two or four years ago. The lion’s share of Apple’s business is now selling iPhones, a much more mainstream business than courting graphic designers and musicians. In the first quarter of 2015, Apple generated $5.6 billion in revenue by selling 4.6 million Macs.

By comparison, it sold 61.2 million iPhones for $40.3 billion and 12.6 million iPads for $5.4 billion.

Nowadays, creative pros are slipping over to the Windows side of the PC industry, said Jon Peddie, who’s tracked the workstation market for years at his firm Jon Peddie Research.

“It’s a very slow exodus, no stampede,” Peddie said, but Dell is the top beneficiary. “Dell is making the most aggressive moves in screen resolution, power-performance and price. Dell is probably Apple’s biggest threat in the professional space now, with (Hewlett-Packard) No. 2.”

Michael Dell believes his company’s outsized presence in the workstation focus is contributing to its comeback. “There are three companies that are gaining share. We’re certainly one of them.”

But if Frog Design and Dawnrunner show Apple’s vulnerability, Jessica Ruggieri of ad and film agencySleek Machine shows the company’s enduring strength.

What would it take to get her to switch to a Dell? “Maybe if they were bought out by Apple,” she quipped.

“I will be anti-PC forever,” she said of her disdain for Windows machines. She imprinted on the Mac lineage when she first learned how to use computers. “I’m very comfortable with it. Not only is it a beautiful workspace, it’s beautifully designed, aesthetic and streamlined. Compatibility with Mac hardware and software [makes a Mac] one clean system.”

Apple’s momentum also ensures any industry transitions won’t be fast. Take the case of advertising and marketing firm Deep Focus, which plans to continue using Macs. “The main reason is continuity — partners are on Mac, vendors are on Mac, and most of our team is on Mac at home,” said Ken Kraemer, the company’s chief creative officer.

Apple’s increasingly consumer-oriented business cuts both ways, Kraemer added. On the plus side, it makes it easier for creative pros to tap into new technological abilities. On the minus side, it means Apple’s attention is elsewhere.

“In the very long term, this apparent focus will probably undo the dominance Apple has in creative fields,” Kraemer said. Windows PCS are cheaper and faster, particular for 3D graphics work that’s becoming more important, he said, but for now “Mac hardware is great for 90 percent of the creative tasks we do.”

Dell tries getting stylish

Dell’s success was based on operational efficiency, a direct-to-customer sales model that plumped up profit margins and a reliance on Microsoft and Intel to shoulder most of the research and development burden. Apple, by comparison, always had its own operating system, and it increasingly designs or tightly controls its hardware, too. Where Dell accepted the “Intel Inside” stickers and marketing money from Intel, Apple kept its machines pristine and left customers recognizing only its own brand.

Dell’s recipe didn’t work, though, as evidenced by a sliding share price that forced the company to go private in 2013. Apple was partly responsible for Dell’s decline by diverting people’s spending toward smartphones and tablets. But the company had plenty of other troubles, including the rise of Asian PC manufacturers like Lenovo and Asus and Microsoft’s market-chilling missteps with Windows 8.

For its comeback, Dell is hardly trying to transform itself into Apple. It’s still reliant on Intel and Microsoft, it sells heavy-duty server computers that Apple lost interest in, and it’s small potatoes in the tablet and smartphone market. But it’s not afraid of aping Apple’s success where it makes sense.

The Dell M3800 is 18mm (0.71 inches) thick and includes a high-speed Thunderbolt port to make it easier for Mac users to move to the Windows machine.

“We’ve made good-looking machines again,” Rhodes said. “The creative types care about look, feel, lightness.”

Dell’s newest M3800 also added a Thunderbolt 2 port to appeal to Mac customers using the high-speed port for storage and monitors.

One convert is Drew Wolber of film, photo and graphic design agency Sparksight, which switched from Macs to Dell machines.

“Macs do a great job of having form and function, but Dell seemed more about function than form,” he said. But no more. “The M3800 looks cool, which was a huge thing. This is a pretty sexy-looking laptop, and the 4K screen is even cooler.”

Not everyone is so convinced. “The Dell is twice as thick and heavy as the Mac laptop,” Wrigley said. “Even though I couldn’t get the processing power, the sleekness almost swayed me to get the Mac laptop.”

And Dell’s trackpad just can’t match the Mac’s, something Rhodes says Dell is working on.

Dell also has improved its desktop workstations, models with more horsepower that sit in the office for jobs like rendering video to apply special effects or coloring styles. Dawnrunner’s Precision T7500 workstations couldn’t match the clean interior of Apple’s Mac Pro models, but with the newer T7600, Dell fixed the problem, he said.

“I went through film school and started my business all on Mac,” Fox said. “I never in my wildest dreams expected to move to an all-PC shop.”

Final Cut fiasco

One big trigger in particular was Apple’s release of Final Cut Pro X in 2011, a major departure from the Final Cut Pro 7 that had revolutionized film and video industry by dramatically lowering prices for what had been rarefied technology. FCP X’s shortcomings opened the door for Adobe Systems’ rival Premiere Pro, which runs on both Windows and Mac.

“In high-end post-production

we never used to see Windows,” said Bill Roberts, senior director of product management for Adobe’s video tool business. “We see more and more of that now, in particular in higher-performance rooms.”

Fully half of Premiere Pro’s double-digit growth comes from customers switching from Final Cut Pro, Roberts said. “When FCP X came out, it was a boon to us,” Roberts said. Adobe woos customers to the point where it put engineering staff on site for editing of the 2014 movie “Gone Girl.”

Though Apple shored up FCP X’s initial shortcomings and touts that it was used for editing major motion pictures such as the Will Smith vehicle “Focus,” some customers were displeased by the new version’s differences, by the fact that FCP X couldn’t import files from FCP 7, by plug-ins that stopped working and by having all the changes come by surprise.

The demise of Apple’s Aperture software for editing and cataloging photos, while less abrupt than the FCP X shift, also didn’t help. Even those who are sticking with their Macs, like Xanthe Wells, chief creative officer of ad agency Pitch, were distressed.

“They tried to oversimplify some of their Pro products and wound up removing features that are needed for creative professionals,” she said. “With the tremendous growth the company has seen over the last 10 years — especially following the introduction of iPhone and iPad — there is no question they’ve stopped focusing as much on the Pro user.”

For Wolber’s film-school days, buying a Mac and Final Cut was a prerequisite. An entire generation emerged knowing Final Cut Pro inside out.

“The logic and intuitiveness was ingrained in us,” he said. “When Final Cut Pro X came out, it was such a departure from everything we knew. It was a glorified iMovie.”

It’s no wonder Dell is taking the offensive trying to win over the Mac faithful.

“In the battles we’re in, we win 9 times out of 10,” Rhodes said. “We’re trying to get into more battles.”

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ET deals: Optiplex 3020 micro desktop for $299, Dell 28-inch 4K monitor $299

Was that mini tower desktop dealfrom yesterday a little too big for your workspace? Then check out this deal we’ve got on an ultra-compact micro desktop from Dell, on sale right now for just $299. We’ve also found another huge monitor discount you may just want to pair your new desktop with.

The Dell Optiplex 3020 Micro is so tiny that Dell has measured it in terms of its displacement – just 1.2 liters, if you’re curious. For those that prefer more typical dimensions, the width here is a mere 1.4-inches. Designed to take up as little space as possible on your desk, this desktop can easily be mounted anywhere, even under your desk.

Inside you’ll find a Pentium G3240T 4th-gen dual-core processor, 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive. These specs combine to give you the processing power and memory to ably handle a typical internet and office workload. Power users thinking of upgrading the memory obviously have less room to work with than a traditional desktop, but it does boast tool-less entry and a pair of RAM slots.

Thanks to DisplayPort and VGA connectivity, you can easily hook up multiple monitors to this computer. Note that there’s no optical drive or WiFi, but six USB ports (two in the front), Ethernet and audio ports make up the rest of your options.

Dell ships Windows 8.1 on this desktop, but for a relatively small cost you can add on business-friendly extras like a Windows 7/8 Pro license (+$35) or extend the standard one year warranty out to three years (+$50). On the flipside, anyone looking to save a few bucks can opt-out of the bundled keyboard and mouse to trim around $8 from the total. A full year of McAfee LiveSafe is also included. Get a great price on this compact little desktop while this coupon code lasts.

Dell Optiplex 3020 micro Pentium dual-core ultra-compact desktop for $299. Apply coupon code VL70G31ZB9PP96 for total $271 in savings.

We’ve also spotted a great deal on a large 28-inch 4K monitor. This monitor features DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, HDMI, and four USB ports, and includes a three year warranty. Note that it supports a 30Hz refresh rate at 4K, so it’s not well-suited to gaming or other fast-action needs, but for those interested in more static uses like spreadsheets or documents it’s the best price around for a glorious 3840 x 2160 Ultra HD resolution.

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Dell Venue 11 Pro: The anti-iPad

The Dell Venue 11 Pro is a very different creature than an Apple tablet. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Dell Venue 11 Pro tablet with keyboard.

My first impression of the Dell Venue 11 Pro is positive. It’s very different from the iPad Air but that’s OK.

The Venue 11 has a gorgeous 10.8-inch — an unusual size — 1,920×1,080 IPS display, and the model I’m using is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom Z3770 “Bay Trail” processor with 2GB of memory.

And Dell bundles Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 with the $500 tablet (64GB version).

I’ve been using it for about a week and the 64-bit Bay Trail processor feels fast running the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1. (Note that 64-bit Windows 8 for Atom won’t arrive until the first quarter of 2014.)

I haven’t seen any lag in anything I’ve done. But I should qualify that by saying it’s been limited, so far, to lots of Web browsing and video.

Speed (Bay Trail model): The Venue 11 posted Geekbench scores that were lower than the iPad Air on single-core performance but higher than the Air on multicore. (See the notes attached to the YouTube video below to see the exact scores).

I won’t dive into productivity — which would involve more traditional Windows desktop performance metrics — with Microsoft Office until the Dell Tablet Keyboard arrives. I was expecting to post my first impressions after using the keyboard, but shipment has been delayed (and I got tired of waiting).

Tablet or laptop? Which brings me to the un-iPad aspect of the Venue 11. It’s bigger, thicker, and heavier than the iPad Air (which I also use). But that’s not surprising, because it’s really been designed as a hybrid tablet-laptop, aka a 2-in-1, not a standalone tablet.

In fact, the model I’m using is the only model with Intel’s Bay Trail processor. The other two models use Intel’s higher-performance “Haswell” Core i3 and Core i5 power-efficient Y series processors.

Those Haswell processors put it into laptop performance territory, so expect performance that’s better than the scores posted by the Bay Trail model.

Surface Pro 2 or Venue 11 Pro? In this respect, the Venue 11 is not unlike the Surface Pro 2 — which also squeezes a Haswell processor into a tablet design. And that appears to be Dell’s target market: businesspeople who need a tablet that can also serve as a lightweight laptop.

Note that it’s thinner and lighter than the 10.6-inch Surface Pro 2. The Venue 11 Bay Trail model is 0.4-inches thick and 1.68 pounds compared with the Surface Pro 2, which is 0.53 inches thick and 2 pounds. (The Venue 11 Haswell model is 0.48 inches thick and 1.75 pounds).

And the similarity doesn’t end with the processor. Dell offers two keyboards for the Venue 11. One is the “Dell Tablet Keyboard — Mobile,” which integrates a battery, extending battery life. The other is the Surface-like “Dell Tablet Keyboard — Slim,” which is a cover and a keyboard.

Battery life: Battery life has been good. Using it on and off during the day (let’s say roughly a couple of hours every day), the charge lasted for more than four days — and that’s without manually shutting it down, just leaving it “on” in standby mode.

Wrap-up: As a first impression (this is not a full review — CNET will be posting one later), it has promise as a decent hybrid and has the potential to replace my 4-year-old Dell Adamo laptop.

And that’s the reason I’m trying out the Venue 11. Microsoft and Intel are pushing detachables (in which the keyboard can be detached, yielding a standalone tablet) big time as an answer to tablets like the iPad Air.

The thinking is, you won’t need both an iPad Air and a MacBook if you have one device like the Venue 11 Pro.

But I’m going to need a lot of convincing, because on most days, I do switch between iPads and a MacBook, and so far I haven’t found a better alternative. (The Adamo is used less often because of its age).

I tried the original Surface Pro for two months then sold it. It just didn’t cut it as tablet; it was a decent — but not a great — laptop.

I will update this post next week when the Dell keyboard is finally expected to arrive. At that time I will also put down my iPads and MacBook and see if Dell’s (and Microsoft’s and Intel’s) 2-in-1 vision is practical.

Despite having a bigger display than the Surface Pro 2, the Venue 11 Pro is thinner and lighter than Microsoft's tablet.
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Dell announces Venue 7 and Venue 8 Android tablets, prices start at $149

Dell announces Venue 7 and Venue 8 Android tablets, prices start at $149

When Dell said it was going to revive the Venue brand, we assumed it was referring to Windows tablets. And indeed it was — it just announced the Venue 8 Pro and Venue 11 Pro running Windows 8.1. But what we didn’t know was that Dell was also planning on getting back into the Android market, and that these devices, too, would fall under the Venue brand. Here at a press event in New York City, the company announced the Venue 7 and Venue 8, both of which run Android 4.2.2 (upgradeable to KitKat) and will be offered in both WiFi-only and 4G configurations.

As you’d expect, they’re exactly what they sound like: the Venue 7 (pictured) has a 7-inch screen, and the Venue 8 is — yep — an 8-incher. Neither is particularly high-end: each has a 1,280 x 800 IPS screen and a 2GHz dual-core Intel Z2580 processor. The Venue 7 only has 16GB of internal storage, we’re told, though the Venue 8 will be offered with either 16 or 32 gigs. Either way, you have a microSD slot at your disposal if you need more space. Pricing is set at $150 for the Venue 7, while the Venue 8 will cost $180. Both will be available October 18th.

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Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo will embed motion-tracking cameras into laptops next year!!!

Kinect-like motion tracking cameras could be built right into your laptop next year. At the 2013 Intel Developer Conference (IDF), Intel announced that Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo will place 3D-depth cameras right inside the screen bezel of computers, starting in the second half of 2014.

Intel’s had its eye on motion tracking for some time now, first announcing a partnership with GestureTek back in 2010, working with SoftKinetic and Creative on its perceptual computing initiative, and then acquiring gesture recognition company Omek earlier this year. While previous efforts relied on users mounting pricey external cameras to their monitor, Intel has now built a tiny USB module that can fit right inside the screen. The company says we should expect it to appear in both laptops and all-in-one computers, and showed off reference designs of each on the IDF stage.

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