Like many other PC makers, Dell's revenue has been sliding as the popularity of smartphones and tablet computers divert consumer and business spending from laptop and desktop machines.
By becoming a part-owner in Dell, Microsoft would risk being viewed by HP and other PC makers as more of a rival than a partner. Microsoft already has rankled some of its PC makers by releasing a tablet computer called Surface that competes against their products.
So far, though, there has been little evidence indicating that the Surface is reshaping the market for computing devices.
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