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Microsoft in talks on Dell buyout: reports
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Jan 22, 2013


Microsoft Surface Pro hits US in February
San Francisco (AFP) Jan 22, 2013 - Microsoft announced Tuesday that its business-oriented Surface Windows 8 Pro tablet computer will debut in the United States and Canada in February with a lofty starting price of $899.

Microsoft also said that the consumer-focused version of Surface released late last year here will soon be available in 13 new markets around the world.

The Surface Pro will be available on February 9 at Microsoft stores in the United States and Canada, at the online Microsoft store and at Staples and Best Buy and other retailers.

"The response to Surface has been exciting to see," said Microsoft Surface general manager Panos Panay. "We're thrilled to continue growing the Surface family."

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft described Surface Pro as providing "the power and performance of a laptop in a tablet package."

Pro tablets, which Microsoft originally said would be released in January, will be available in 64-gigabyte and 128-gigabyte models.

Microsoft introduced the Surface tablet in the middle of last year and began sales in time for the holiday shopping season.

Although Microsoft has provided no sales data, analysts have said Surface is getting only a small segment of the tablet market led by Apple's iPad, Amazon's Kindle and several others powered by the Google Android system.

The lower-cost version of Surface, with a starting price of $499, is now sold at Microsoft retail stores in the United States and Canada and online in the US, Australia, Britain Canada, China, France and Germany.

Last month, Microsoft said it would begin selling the tablet in third-party retail outlets.

Microsoft is in talks with private equity investors on a possible buyout of US computer giant Dell, the Wall Street Journal and cable news channel CNBC reported Tuesday.

The reports, citing sources close to the discussions, said Microsoft was considering investing $2 billion to $3 billion.

Dell has not commented on reports circulating since last week which said the popular computer maker, which has slipped from its number one position and has struggled amid a shift to mobile devices, was preparing to go private.

The move, which would delist the company from stock markets, could ease some of the pressure on Dell, which is cash-rich but has been seeing profits slump.

Microsoft did not respond to an AFP query on the reports, which said it was in talks with the equity firm Silver Lake Partners.

Dell shares extended their recent rally, gaining 2.4 percent to $13.15. The reports said a deal for the shares could be priced at between $13 and $14.

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said a deal in that price range is possible, but that "a materially higher price is less likely."

Wu said in a note to clients that "attractive returns could prove difficult" for Dell and that based on prior buyouts "acquirers underestimate the secular pressures a company in decline faces."

"While going private makes sense in taking the company out of the limelight and public scrutiny, we are not sure it improves the company's fundamental position," Wu said.

He said that despite Dell's efforts to diversify, "about 70 percent of its business is tied to PCs."

"The reality is that ever-increasing competition from Lenovo, Asustek, Apple, Google, Acer, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, and Cisco isn't going away by going private," he added.

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