Microsoft wants Windows commitment not Dell control tip insiders

Details on the rumored multi-billion Microsoft investment in Dell continue to emerge, with chatter of the expectations the Windows maker would have for its supposed target. Whispers of Microsoft considering up to a $3bn injection to help stabilize Dell as a private company circulated yesterday following CNBC reports, and now the WSJ weighs in with further insider talk of how the deal might work out. Perhaps most important is the criteria that "Windows software [would] power the vast majority of its devices," though there are concerns that perceived favouritism might push other Windows OEMs to look elsewhere for their software.

That Microsoft might have a Windows bias hardly comes as news, though beyond mandating predominant use of its software, the company would supposedly be a quiet partner. Day-to-day operations would be left to Dell to decide, without Microsoft involvement, under the current deal being proposed.

Microsoft is also apparently hoping to weight the payout in its favor should Dell – even with the extra financial help – collapse under the strain. The preferred security it hopes to hold in Dell would put it ahead of the line of stockholders, should Dell go bust and debts be settled out of what was left over.

The potential deal is already being compared to Microsoft's partnership with Nokia, which switched to focus its smartphone efforts on Windows Phone back in 2011. Although talk of Microsoft buying out Nokia wholesale proliferated both before and after that partnership was agreed, the two companies have remained distinct, with Microsoft merely sloshing cash into the Finnish firm's account on a quarterly basis.

Microsoft has also helped foot the bill for some of Nokia's advertising and promotional work around Windows Phone, a move that led many to wonder whether other smartphone manufacturers using the OS might balk at the apparent favoritism. A similar concern has arisen around this rumored Dell deal, with suggestions that Acer, ASUS, Sony, and other OEMs might react to the proposed investment by looking to Google's Chrome OS or other platforms.

However, even with its close ties to Nokia, Microsoft doesn't always turn to Lumia devices when Windows Phone needs promoting. The company surprised many by opting to brand HTC's 8X and 8S handsets as "Signature Windows Phones" last year, rather than their Lumia counterparts.