Troubled computer systems builder Dell (UNKNOWN: DELL.DL ) isn't just talking to private equity titans about a potential buyout. The company may even connect to the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) mothership itself.
Would a fusion of Microsoft and Dell create a Frankenstein in the image of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) ?
It's not a totally crazy idea. Apple built the world's most efficient cash machine by controlling every component of its glitzy consumer products, from hardware designs to system software and individual apps. Mr. Softy started leaning in that direction with the Surface tablet, which was built to showcase the redesigned Windows 8 platform. Microsoft stepped on plenty of partner toes in the process, including Dell's. Going all the way with a direct finger in hardware sales would move Redmond many miles closer to Cupertino.
That being said, the separate scoops from The Wall Street Journal and CNBC don't suggest that Microsoft would become the controlling partner in a Dell buyout. Instead, Redmond might take up to a $3 billion stake in the $23 billion company. The buyout masters at Silver Lake Partners would still run the show.
But Microsoft might still be the final destination for Dell. Let Silver Lake take the system guru private for a while, make some tough and unpopular decisions to nurse Dell back to health. Meanwhile, Microsoft gets much closer to its favorite hardware partner. When the convalescence period is over, Microsoft could then place a wholesale bid for Dell based on unprecedented insight into its operations and financial health.
Everybody wins, and the world gains its first serious end-to-end Apple clone. I can definitely see this happening -- and enjoy the irony of Microsoft trying to copy Cupertino after all these years.
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