Microsoft would add to a lengthening list of large strategic investments in technology companies. The software maker has a stake in Facebook Inc. and invested $300 million in a Barnes & Noble Inc. subsidiary to focus on e-readers. It also invested $5 billion in 1999 into what was then AT&T Corp.
This also isn’t the first time Microsoft has considered bolstering a potential Silver Lake deal. In 2011, the software maker offered to help fund an offer by Silver Lake and other firms to acquire a minority stake in Yahoo! Inc., people familiar with the matter said at the time. The deal never materialized.
Microsoft invested $150 million in then-foundering Apple in 1997. The investment contributed to the very survival of Apple and helped put the company on the long path toward becoming the world’s most valuable company.
An investment in Dell would be distinct in many ways, Miller said.
Apple was “a pity infusion in a near-bankrupt company,” he said.
Microsoft doesn’t own part of Nokia, and Google’s Android is free. That means Google owes less consideration to partners that use the software, whereas PC makers pay Microsoft to use Windows, Gartenberg said.
While PC makers might have a reason to feel aggrieved if Microsoft winds up owning part of Dell, they don’t have very many means of redress, he said. Apple doesn’t license its software to outside vendors. Google also competes with partners and its software isn’t popular on desktop computers.
Microsoft meanwhile needs to focus most on how to restore growth to its Windows business, which has fallen short of analysts’ estimates in six of the last eight quarters.
“Ultimately Microsoft is responsible to its shareholders, not for how well its partners do,” Gartenberg said. “Partners need an operating system, and the operating system of choice on personal computers is Windows. They may have to live with it.”