The sale includes several of Dell s high-profile acquisitions in recent years, among them the database software maker Quest, network security company SonicWall, and cloud management company Enstratius.

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The sale is a strange move for a company trying to reinvent itself in a business environment that s rapidly changing thanks to cloud computing and mobile devices.

But then it went big—really big—on hardware when it agreed to acquire EMC last year for a record-breaking $67 billion.

Smartphones are eating into desktop sales, and Dell never made a dent in the smartphone market, which is already leveling off anyway.

HP acquired German software giant Autonomy in 2011, while EMC bought database company Vertica in 2011 and the consulting firm Pivotal Labs in 2012.

You can also see this dynamic in Microsoft s ill-fated acquisition of Nokia and Google s short-lived ownership of Motorola Mobility.

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