This Week in Tablets: Microsoft and Dell together? No surprise here

February 9, 2013

Microsoft buying into Dell appeared to surprise a bunch of people. Technology and business journalists and analysts speculated with fervor about what Microsoft hopes to gain out of the $2 billion the company sank into Dell.

The Wall Street Journal called it a “$2 billion gamble that the software giant can prop up one of its biggest customers without annoying all the others.”

The trick for Microsoft is whether or not it can continue to build confidence in the channel on behalf of Windows 8 after it has seemingly betrayed its partners twice—first with the Surface announcement, and now with Dell.

When viewed more closely, however—especially from Microsoft’s perspective, it’s not such a surprise after all.

Financially, the investment/loan is small potatoes for Microsoft, and based upon Microsoft’s previous history investing in Apple, it would be easy to look at this deal as a pure money play. But based upon the Journal’s story, it appears clear that the arrangement was facilitated by Silver Lake with intent to shore up relationships between the two companies.

There’s a tablet/mobile angle here, of course. Microsoft’s investment makes it unlikely that Dell will now turn to the Android platform for its new tablets and smart phones.

With Google surging in market share and even customer satisfaction in a manner reminiscent of PC/Windows climb to power in the 1990s (sans the customer satisfaction), Microsoft needs to do whatever it can to corral its partners.

For what it’s worth, I’d be curious to see what Dell’s boutique PC shop Alienware would turn out if unleashed on a tablet design.

Also surprising, but not that surprising

I’m also curious to see how (and if) BlackBerry would move towards a brand new tablet device. Even though CEO Thorsten Heins recently declared that he has asked his engineers to build another tablet, it’s hard for me to imagine the company doing anything new in the space until it rehabilitates its name in the smartphone space.

We’ll know the odds of this happening by spring, at which point we’ll have been able to catch a glimpse of BB10’s performance and calculate the company’s trajectory.

I know this much: BlackBerry would have to do something truly special to stand out in the thickening crowd. What “special” would mean in the context of a tablet device in late 2013 is very difficult to predict.

This week’s loser

I was all set to declare the paper industry a loser today, given the news that seniors prefer to read newspapers on tablets. But then right at the end of the week, a new IDC survey of 800 users predicted that over the next few years, tablet and smartphone users will print (or want to print) with increasing regularity from their tablets. Photos, coupons, and tickets lead the list of things that people want to print.

So, instead, this week’s loser is…Microsoft, even if it was very forthright and honest in its recent Reddit AMA session. Four hours of battery life on the Surface Pro tablet? That’s just flat-out unacceptable. Full-fledged laptops are getting more battery life these days.

At least Microsoft listened patiently and responded enthusiastically to the Reddit community’s concerns, even if one of the potential solutions could be an external battery.

(For a round-up of the media’s reactions to Surface Pro, check TabTimes International Editor Doug Drinkwaters review roundup.)

Maybe Dell could help them out with their hardware? 

This week’s winner

At the same time as Microsoft witnessed a wave of mediocre reviews of the Surface Pro from the technology press, a Forrester Research survey theorized that a third of all IT workers would like to buy a Win8 tablet in the future.

Close runner up in the winner category here is me, thanks to TabTimes’ very own how-to story on recovering precious storage memory on your iPad. I bought a 32GB iPad 3 when they came out, and am wishing I owned a 64GB version on a weekly basis.

Between all the pictures of my 9 month old daughter, the tons of games and apps, and multiple tablet newspapers and magazines I have on my iPad, it’s maxed out to the point where I can’t even update all my apps at the same time anymore.

On the horizon: TABLET STRATEGY West

The next few weeks are going to be interesting indeed.

In two weeks, TabTimes is holding its first TABLET STRATEGY conference in San Francisco on February 20. The topics will include deployment strategies, BYOD, best practices. And the speaker list includes Thomas Butler, a director of Lenovo’s ThinkPad group, Chris Yeh VP of Platforms at Box, outspoken tech analyst Rob Enderle, and more.

On the same date, it sounds like Sony will be announcing plans for its newest PlayStation gaming console. It would be shocking if Sony didn’t have some kind of tablet/second-screen integration.

Finally, during the last week of February, Mobile World Congress takes place in Barcelona where many new tablet announcements are expected. Stay tuned.


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