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The Deal: Dell's Quandary Reflects Tech's Secular Shift

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Just a day after Carl Icahn publicly waved the white flag in his fight over the fate of Dell (DELL), it was announced that HP (HPQ) would be unceremoniously booted from the Dow Jones Industrials Average.

And, just like that, it became clear to investors, executives and everyone else that tech 1.0 is over.

That was followed by the hard fought win on Thursday, Sept. 12, of Dell founder Michael Dell and backer Silver Lake to take the PC maker private at $13.75 per share in a deal worth almost $25 billion.

For years, the vise-like grip Microsoft (MSFT) held on the technology industry muddled lines between products, since so many PCs were wholly dependent on the Seattle-based company. Now, no different than Dell or HP., Microsoft is going through changes of its own, as the advent of iOS and Android created a secular shift away from everything Steve Ballmer tried to protect, one reason he is on the way out as CEO.

But that was tech 1.0.

"All the marketing in the world can't get you out of having a bad product in this industry," a tech industry executive said. "Brands matter a lot less than people think, and products matter a lot more than people think."

And the brand atop each Dell PC is the very name of its founder. Neither Apple (AAPL), Microsoft nor HP are as entwined with their current leadership as Dell is today.

Michael Dell will have overseen his company's rise, from a $1,000 balance sheet in his dorm room at the University of Texas, to its 1988 initial public offering and a zenith of a $100 billion market cap a dozen years later, to, ultimately, an leveraged buyout for around $25 billion. Dell's final act as CEO will be to determine the ultimate fate of the company: whether it's services juxtaposed against consumer products, or, a combination of both. Of course, his stated intention is to revitalize his company that has been coasting downward for more than a decade.

But there's another side to the Dell success, decline and potential rebirth story and that is of LBO backer Silver Lake.

Stock quotes in this article: DELL, MSFT, HPQ 

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