Dell Computers is a publicly traded company which fact the outfit’s owner, Michael Dell, wants to change. He wants to take it private: that means, he wants to get out of the whole stock, stockholder, forecast, quarterly earning reporting rat race. There are reasons to do this, and not the least of them is to gain freedom to do what you think is needed to put the company where it ought to be, at least in your estimate. This is all a rather complicated process, with lots of hoops and loops and a large number of people to placate. Essentially, Dell would buy back all its stock and pay its investors off in real money. Raising that much cash requires more that passing the hat at Yankee Stadium. Dell has to find some folks with big dough who agree this is a good idea.They, of course, would want something. One of the “Theys” mentioned by name recently as a possible source for financial cavalry at this crucial time in the struggle is Microsoft, which has indicated that it might be willing to go along for, oh, say, 2-3 Bil. The crowd at Redmond are not noted for corporate open-handedness, so people are starting to ask “what’s the catch?” The analysts have been pondering this move since the announcement and some see it as a strong bid to keep MS products alive somewhat longer. Helping Dell might mean helping MS keep a strong field of WIndows-based machines, which means more software licenses which means more money for that deserving company in Redmond, yes, Microsoft, that’s the one. MS is a little concerned over all this talk about a ‘post-PC’ computing era. PCs, desktop war horses and the programs they run are a major element in the MS revenue stream, so the company wants to keep the stream running along as merrily as it can. It could be that. At any rate, 3 Bil ain’t hay. All will be revealed.