Dell May Have A Winner With Its Windows-Powered Venue 8 Pro

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The most pleasant surprise to come out of Dell’s press conference the other day wasn’t its line of new laptops or the silly Android tablets it’s trying to foist on weary consumers. To my utter shock it was the Venue 8 Pro, the company’s first pint-sized Windows 8 tablet.

Let’s start with its looks. The lightweight, plastic body screams “generic,” and you’d be hard-pressed to differentiate it from the Android-powered cousins we looked at earlier. That’s not to say it’s completely devoid of nice touches, though: The back plate features a pattern of concentric circles that break up the monotony of an otherwise plain soft-touch finish and seems to help with grip. The Venue 8 Pro is unexpectedly light, too, as it weighs a relatively scant .87 pounds — that’s well within striking distance of the iPad mini.

That said, the Venue 8 Pro suffers from a distinct lack of style. It’s perhaps to be expected considering that this is Dell’s first attempt at bringing a full-on Windows 8 experience to a device like this, and there’s a lot that could go wrong with this sort of endeavor. Take the screen, for instance. One of my favorite reviews ever written features Paul Thurrott just eviscerating Acer’s Windows 8-powered Iconia W3 tablet for its godawful screen. Some may say he was too heavy-handed in his criticism, but when the primary means of consuming and interacting with your content just sucks, something is very very wrong.









Thankfully, early stinkers like the Acer make Dell’s approach seem all the more palatable. The Pro’s IPS screen — which ran at 1280 x 800 — was bright and well-saturated, and viewing angles seemed more than respectable during the brief moments I spent playing with the thing.

Of course, the screen’s size poses some issues. There’s no denying that parts of Windows 8.1 just aren’t suited for such small displays. The classic desktop mode is cramped and festooned with tiny icons that require a fair amount of dexterity to poke at accurately. Dell plans to downplay some of those issues by selling an active stylus that allows for precise manipulation of screen elements — I took that thing for a spin too and came away impressed. Part of the stylus’s appeal is because Dell fought the urge to make it small enough to slot into the Venue’s chassis. Instead the company opted to make a full-sized pen, which helps dramatically with usability (though you’ll have to tuck it into a case or a pocket).

And then there’s longevity to consider. I’m told that the battery is slated to last between 8 and 10 hours of normal use (whatever that is). That wouldn’t amount to much if this thing wound up trading off performance for power, but the whole package seemed suitably snappy thanks to its 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Bay Trail chipset. We’ll see if that remains the case once the final devices start trickling out into the wild.

After being let down in such a big way by Microsoft’s original Surface RT, I thought I’d never splurge on a Windows tablet again. Now, after having played with Dell’s attempt, I find myself rethinking my earlier position. The prospect of running full Windows apps on a device this light and this cheap is a terribly attractive one, and at this moment Dell’s tiny tab seems well-equipped to take on what few Windows competitors are playing at this size. I may even buy this thing over the iPad mini, which is yet another thing I never thought I’d say. Stay tuned for the full review in short order.

Cohen’s SAC in talks to sell reinsurance business -sources

NEW YORK, Oct 3 (Reuters) – Steve A. Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors is in discussions to sell its reinsurance business as the $14 billion hedge fund deals with the fallout of a long-running insider…

This Week On The TechCrunch Droidcast: Dude, No One’s Getting A Dell Venue Tablet

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Dell had an event this week, which is in itself noteworthy regardless of what they launch, but it turns out there were Android tablets there! We talk about those for a while, as well as the Elliptic Labs ultrasound gesture control SDK, Android in the Car, Amazon’s four-camera phone plans, and briefly the Kindle Fire HDX.

This week on the show prodigal son Chris Velazco returns from his many travels (we held the podcast a whole day to make sure he could come), and we’re joined by Natasha Lomas as well. I nearly forgot to mention that we also chat briefly about BBM for Android, and it must be forgettable because BlackBerry itself seems to have forgotten about it as well.

We invite you to enjoy weekly Android podcasts every Wednesday (or Thursday this week) at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and 2:30 p.m. Pacific, in addition to our weekly Gadgets podcast at 3 p.m. Eastern and noon Pacific on Fridays. Subscribe to the TechCrunch Droidcast in iTunes, too, if that’s your fancy.

Intro music by Kris Keyser.

Direct download available here.

Vaccine Conspiracy Theorists More Likely To See Conspiracy Everywhere

Where do climate change deniers, anti-GMO activists, and vaccine conspiracy theorists overlap one another? According to a recent study, described in Mother Jones, they seem to triangulate on a tendency to believe in conspiracies. And evidently, according to the study authors, no single theory has a stronger hold on the minds of such like-tending folk as the vaccines pharmaco-governmento-medico conspiracy theory does. According to Chris Mooney, author of The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science–and Reality, and writing at Mother Jones: The finding may cast a great deal of light on the strange persistence of anti-vaccine views, which have centered on the claim that childhood vaccines are behind an alleged “epidemic” of autism. This assertion has been rejected by scientists. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine have both weighed in strongly on the matter; and one chief proponent of the vaccine concerns, Andrew Wakefield, has even seen his original 1998 paper raising concerns about the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine retracted by the journal that published it, The Lancet.

Analysis: We’re ready for takeoff. Sit back and enjoy your iGizmo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – In as little as a few months, airline passengers could play video games, read e-books, watch movies and listen to music while their flights take off or land, ending a long-standing ban on devices being used during those risky phases.

European Commission considers regulation of crowdfunding

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission said on Thursday it is examining whether to regulate crowdfunding, an alternative source of financing via the Internet, and has started to gather views from industry and citizens.

SAP launches $650 million fund, highlights corporate venture growth

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Software giant SAP AG said it is allocating more than $650 million to a new venture fund, SAP Ventures Fund II, showing the growing role that corporations are taking on in funding the world’s youngest companies.

U.S. indicts 13 suspected members of hacker group Anonymous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States brought criminal charges against 13 suspected members of the hacking group Anonymous on Thursday for allegedly attacking government, credit card and lobbying websites in a campaign in support of internet file-sharing.