In 2009, leading IT publication PC Pro carried an April Fools' joke column, where it depicted the wildly fantastical scenario that Microsoft had bought Dell. What was an April Fool in 2009, it could soon become a January (or maybe February) reality four years later if market speculations that Microsoft is planning $1-3bn as part of a move to make Dell private are to be believed.
Analysts feel that the move would make strategic sense for Microsoft. The software giant invested heavily in Windows 8, but PC and tablet sales are lackluster so far-particularly in the low end of the laptop market, which goes head-to-head with the blockbuster iPad. With Dell directly under its influence, Microsoft could pressure the PC maker to produce Windows 8 devices that more closely aligned with its vision.
For people like me though it means not just another radical change in the tech landscape the way we knew it, but I also sniff traces of monopoly sneaking in more in the future. While I admit that given the economic tsunamis we are witnessing in regular frequencies, consolidation is fait accompli, I also feel that too much consolidation might not be great news for the competitive landscape in the tech ecosystem.
We are moving further and further away from the concept of niche IT players; rather we are moving more towards creating behemoths with both hardware and software portfolios. Oracle was the best example till date, especially after its acquisition of Sun and now Microsoft looks like following suit once it bags Dell in its kitty.
Microsoft's strategy is evident in the Surface, the first PC of its own design. But having a say in Dell's affairs could also give Microsoft the ability to head off its rivals. Let's take an example. Dell's tablet line right now exclusively runs Windows 8. If those devices still haven't gained traction by the middle of this year, Dell might go looking outside the Windows ecosystem. It's done that before, using Google's Android to power its Dell Streak line. Those poorly reviewed gadgets are now discontinued, but Android remains a threat.
Taking a stake instead of completely buying out could be enough to help mold Microsoft's vision for Windows. For Dell, though, having to serve Microsoft as its overlord might not play out so well. However, Dell doesn't look like to be in a position to bargain here. The company lost a third of its market value in 2012 and failed to keep up with rivals like Apple and Samsung. They have done a much better job adapting to the 'post-PC' landscape with innovative tablets and smartphones.
Looks like this April Fools joke will not remain a joke after all.