First, a little background. As you may have heard, Dell may go private. Investors could include Silver Lake Partners (a private equity firm), Microsoft, Michael Dell and others. If Microsoft pumps money into Dell, the software giant could strain relationships with Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Acer and other PC makers. Acer has already been critical of Microsoft's Windows Surface RT and Surface Pro tablet launches.
Open Source ConcernsMeanwhile, a Microsoft-Dell financial relationship could also have a ripple effect in the open source world. Dell is one of the top suppliers of servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux. The company also has a close, ongoing relationship with Canonical, promoting Ubuntu Linux on PCs in emerging regions and also working with Canonical on cloud computing.
Moreover, Dell's own public cloud will leverage OpenStack, the open source platform for launching infrastructure services.
But if Microsoft invests in Dell, will Dell deemphasize or abandon its open source relationships? The VAR Guy seriously doubts it, especially when it comes to servers and cloud computing.
With or without Microsoft's money, Dell must answer to customers. And customers will revolt if Dell somehow abandons or weakens its engagements with Red Hat and the other major Linux providers. Heck, even Microsoft has opened up to the cross-platform reality, allowing customers to run Linux in the Windows Azure cloud.
Still, other server makers -- such as HP and IBM -- could wind up being the big open source winners if customers perceive that Microsoft has somehow undermined, however slightly, Dell's Linux strategy.
On the desktop and in the notebook markets, where Windows still rules over Linux in most regions, The VAR Guy could imagine Microsoft trying to inspire Dell to go "all Windows, all the time." But hopefully, simple logic will prevail.
Even as Dell focuses more and more on enterprise computing, the company can't overlook opportunities with Android, Chrome OS, Linux and other software in the mobile market.