Posts Tagged ‘Dell’

Delving in Dell Venue 8 Pro software capabilities

January 14th, 2014

In my previous post, I considered whether Dell has delivered a solid Windows tablet: a device that’s cheap, lightweight, has an all-day battery, and can compete with Android and iOS. Outward appearances of the device indicate that there’s finally a Windows tablet that’s competitive, with the interesting twist that rather than running a mobile-specific OS, the Dell Venue 8 Pro runs “full fat” Windows 8.1.

Apps aplenty?
When discussing most non-Android and iOS tablets, the discussion around apps quickly comes down to the comparative lack of applications compared to the two tablet market leaders. Even when considering what used to be Microsoft’s “light and long lasting” tablet offering, Windows RT, app catalogs look relatively paltry compared to the million-plus apps in the Apple and Google stores.

This remains the case with the official app store on the Venue 8 Pro, which is the standard Store application available in all versions of Windows 8. While certainly not bereft of offerings, some key players are missing — and there might be one or two applications to fill a niche, whereas Apple and Google’s stores contain a half-dozen. Where the app discussion gets interesting is that beneath the “Modern” user interface lies the traditional Windows desktop, and unlike Windows RT, nearly any Windows executable file created since the dawn of the PC will happily run on the Venue 8 Pro.

For enterprises, this is Earth-shattering. Have an enterprise application from the late 1990’s written in Visual Basic? If it will run in Windows 8, it will run on the Venue 8 Pro. Need a complex network monitoring tool? No need for an app, just download and install from the vendor web site. Even full-fledged Outlook, Office, and Photoshop will run on the device.

Paradise lost?
For an overworked IT department, the Venue 8 Pro and the rest of the new generation of Windows 8.1 tablets seems like a godsend, since existing enterprise applications can now be deployed unmodified to a tablet. However, problems arise when you actually attempt to use some of these applications, most of which were designed for large screens and mouse/keyboard-centric operation. One of the Venue 8 Pro’s strengths, its small size and light weight, becomes a handicap when you attempt to run an application designed for a desktop on a small screen and, in my case in particular, attempt to interact with that application with a chubby and clumsy finger that’s huge compared to the mouse pointer.

Even if an application runs perfectly on a device, in all likelihood, you’ll want a modified user interface to make it successful on a tablet, eliminating some of the benefit of being able to run “anything” Windows on the Venue 8 Pro. The silver lining is that you can use familiar Windows development and management tools rather than building or buying expensive mobile development expertise.

Split-personality speed demon
This is not meant to be a full review of Windows 8.1, but it’s important to note that many of the kinks of the early releases of the OS have been ironed out, and the Dell Venue 8 Pro successfully handles the “split personalities” of Windows 8, opening and running applications in both the Modern and traditional Windows interfaces with aplomb. Some people in IT still cringe when they see an Atom-branded processor, but rest assured that the unit in the Dell Venue 8 Pro will happily chew through enterprise-type workloads. You’re not going to transcode 4K video streams, but multiple Office and web browser windows will work fine, and applications open and close on the device just as quickly as my quad-core i7 desktop.

Dell was also kind enough to deliver a fairly standard Windows 8.1 experience, with little bundled software beyond some rudimentary utilities, none of which I’ve found particularly useful. A Home and Student license of Office is included, but as an Office 365 user, I was able to load the full suite. Interestingly, I’ve found myself using the Modern Mail application more than Outlook, since the latter struggles on the small screen and awkwardly resizes elements of the application in a way that makes quick email triaging easier in Mail. Word and Excel adapt a little more fluidly to the smaller screen, and it’s wonderful to be able to review and edit Office documents without awkward conversions or third-party applications that botch formatting or make modifying documents difficult.

Next up: A day in the life
With a quality build, all-day battery, and “real” Windows onboard, the Dell Venue 8 Pro seems to be a winner. In my next post, I’ll review a few weeks with the device “in the wild,” taking notes in client meetings, creating and editing documents, and attempting to use the Venue 8 Pro as a laptop replacement.


Apple, Cisco, Dell unhappy over alleged NSA back doors in their gear

January 3rd, 2014

Germany’s Der Spiegel newsmagazine reported Monday that the U.S. National Security Agency has for years compromised a wide range of hardware devices, including PCs, iPhones, hard drives, and network routers, as part of its spying activities. The NSA also installed back doors into European telecom networks and into BlackBerry’s network operations center to spy on communications, the Der Spiegel report says.

The spy agency’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit is alleged to have installed such hidden access methods in a variety of devices from Apple, Cisco Systems, Dell, Huawei, Juniper, Maxtor, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital, among others. Although the precise methods are unclear, many seem to involve installation of monitoring software or modified firmware — some on devices intercepted in transit from vendors to their customers.

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Apple, Cisco Systems, Dell, and Huawei have all responded publicly expressing concern over the alleged back doors and promising to inform customers of any vulnerabilities found. All said they were unaware of any vulnerabilities or of the TAO program. The Der Spiegel report says the companies did not appear to have cooperated with the NSA to install the back doors, and Apple today said bluntly that it has never worked with the NSA on any such efforts on any products, comparing the NSA to hackers and saying it would “defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.”

The purported iPhone back door has gained much attention. The NSA slides that Der Spiegel says it obtained show that in 2008 the NSA figured out how to install spyware in the iPhone, though it required hands-on access to the device. The slides claim the NSA was working on ways to remotely install such spyware. It is unclear whether the NSA succeeded in its remote-installation efforts and if so for what versions of iOS.

It’s common for spy agencies to install spyware on specific people’s devices; China’s agents routinely install spyware on Western business travelers’ PCs and mobile devices, for example, and the ongoing revelations by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the U.S. and other major powers spy on others’ citizens as aggressively as the Chinese have long been criticized for doing.

In a statement, the NSA did not deny the spying, and it said any activities it undertakes are limited to foreigners. However, some of Snowden’s revelations have shown that the spying extends to U.S. citizens as well.


Dell partners going deeper; new software competencies coming

August 23rd, 2013

Technology vendor Dell is reporting success encouraging partners to go deeper with the company and move up in its partner program, and is also set to unveil new software-related competencies this fall as it integrates the fruits of several recent acquisitions.

In a recent conversation with CDN to discuss Dell’s channel progress at the end of its fiscal second quarter, Dell’s worldwide channel chief Greg Davis said in Q2 the channel business had grown to 1/3 of the vendor’s overall commercial revenue. A particular area of focus has been increasing the number of partners moving beyond the registered level of Dell PartnerDirect, and making the investment to become preferred or premiere partners.

Davis reported growth on that front, with a 14 per cent increase in partners at the preferred or premiere level, to over 4,200. Reaching that level means partners have invested in training and certifications with Dell, and committed to meeting certain revenue targets. And Canada is somewhat ahead of the global pace, growing from 173 upper-level partners a year ago to 205 by Q2, good for a 20 per cent increase.

“This is the focal point of what we’re trying to do,” said Davis. “We believe tactically it’s the best way to build the channel business for the long-term.”

Much of the partner growth has been focused around Dell’s data centre business, as partners earn competencies in data centre-related skills such as servers, storage, networking and security.

Globally, Dell partners registered 76,000 deals, up 14 per cent year over year, and 72 per cent of opportunities were approved by Dell. Some 110,000 training courses were also completed by partners, and Davis said they’re on track to deliver 250,000 courses by the end of the year.

“This really signifies the investment partners are making with Dell, because training is time-consuming,” said Davis. “They wouldn’t invest in becoming trained in our solutions if they weren’t interested in a long-term relationship with Dell.”

Davis said Dell’s channel growth at this point isn’t new partner recruitment, which isn’t much of a focus for the vendor anymore. Rather, the goal is to help more Dell partners climb the PartnerDirect ladder.

“We think we can clearly double the number of (preferred and premiere) partners without them stepping on each other in the marketplace; we have a lot more work to do elevating the skills of our current partners,” said Davis. “Our focus is on our existing partner base.”

When he’s talking to partners about opportunities for investing in skills and competencies, storage is one area that’s often discussed said Bob Skelley, executive director of channel marketing and programs with Dell.


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