05 Feb 2013, Gareth Morgan, V3
Technology chief executives often quote Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, famous for his treatise The Art of War - presumably seduced by Tzu's liberal use of buzzwords like "invincibility" and "annihilation".
But it looks as if there's one chief exec, Michael Dell, that's taken an important lesson from military doctrine: the value of a well-ordered retreat.
Dell has struck a deal which will give him the cash - a cool $24.4bn - to take the publicly traded firm that bears his name private.
Given the tech industry's obsession with initial public offerings, it might seem an odd choice to spend money to remove a company from the stock exchange. After all, aren't founders supposed to make billions from floating their companies, not cough up billions to take them private?
But the move makes some sense for Dell, particularly given the ill winds that have been buffeting the firm of late.
The PC market - which Dell is synonymous with - has taken a hammering. Consumers and businesses alike have changed; tablets are where the money is.
And while Dell has been aware of this shift, its transition to an end-to-end supplier of business hardware, software and services will take some time - time that the stock market seems unwilling to give it. Dell's current market cap is $23bn - nearly half what it was in 2008.
Such a slump in value has undoubtedly irked investors - and given the unlikeliness that its stock price is going to rocket any time soon, Michael Dell will be aware his company could risk being broken up by disgruntled shareholders.
Taking the company private will buy Dell some time. And it's a deal that should hold strong appeal to shareholders, providing them with a way to recoup some value for stock that would otherwise be in the doldrums.
As Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, told V3, in three to five year's time, perhaps when Dell has finalised its restructuring and the tablet frenzy has waned, it could return to the markets.
But if Dell really has gleaned some wisdom from military history, he must also be aware that there's a fine line between a carefully marshalled retreat that allows an army to fight again afresh and one that leads to a permanent withering of power.
Key to determining which road Dell - the company - takes will be its partnership with Microsoft. It has provided a $2bn loan to smooth the path for the deal.
"We will continue to look for opportunities to support partners who are committed to innovating and driving business for their devices and services built on the Microsoft platform," it said in a statement on the loan.
Part of the reason the PC industry is in such a state has been that Microsoft was so slow at responding to the threat from Apple and Google.
The recently-released Windows 8 has yet to convince market watchers that it has done enough to stem the decline of the PC - indeed some PC makers have floated the notion that future growth in PCs will come from Google's Chromebook designs, not Microsoft's Windows ones.
In accepting the $2bn loan, Dell's fate has become inextricably linked with Microsoft's - much in the same way that Nokia has on the phone front.
On the one hand, this triumvirate may have the last laugh. Microsoft, though undoubtedly wounded by the shift to mobile computing, is a big old beast and a fierce competitor.
Dell also looks like it has some time to affect a fightback. Whether it can ever become top dog again, is now, more than ever, dependent on Microsoft getting its own strategy right.
However, as keen military historians will note, the great generals did their best not to rely on allies winning their battles for them. Dell will be hoping otherwise.