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Dell computers roll off the assemby line in Round Rock, Texas.

AP

Dell Inc. warned of a challenging second half and slashed its full-year earnings outlook as customers cut back on computer purchases ahead of the launch of Microsoft's Windows 8 software, sending its shares down more than 4 per cent.

Dell - once the world's top PC maker and a pioneer in computer supply chain management - is struggling to defend its market share against Asian rivals like Acer Inc. and Lenovo, and the fast-growing adoption of tablets like Apple Inc.'s iPad.

Founded by chief executive officer Michael Dell, it is in the midst of a turnaround, juggling acquisitions with the need to fatten margins by trimming expenses even as global tech spending appears to be slipping. In May, it warned that global tech spending is weakening faster than anticipated.

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The No. 2 U.S. PC maker on Tuesday forecast revenue would slide 2 per cent to 5 per cent in the fiscal third quarter from the second, to $13.8- billion (U.S.) to $14.2-billion. That lagged Wall Street's target of $14.85- billion.

It is predicting earnings per share of "at least" $1.70 for fiscal 2013, compared with a previous forecast for more than $2.13.

"People had already expected them to take down numbers, but I think the level to which they are taking down numbers is pretty severe compared to expectations," said Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross.

Dell chief financial officer Brian Gladden said in an interview that the company tempered its outlook for the fiscal third quarter partly because it expects distributors to hold off on buying new computers before the late October release of the latest version of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.

To stabilize its business and generate revenue growth, Dell is trying to expand further into enterprise computing, where it then goes up against larger rival Hewlett Packard Co.

On Tuesday, it announced that it had hired ex-HP networking executive Marius Haas to help quicken its push into global services, confirming an earlier Reuters report. Mr. Haas, who joined private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts after departing HP, replaces Brad Anderson.

The imminent version of Windows is designed with touchscreen devices and Internet-based computing in mind. Analysts say it may give PC makers like Dell, HP and Lenovo a chance to win back market share lost to the iPad.

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"The jury is out as to whether they will be able to improve their growth rates until they get some Windows 8 tablets out," Ms. Cross said.

Dell reported fiscal second-quarter revenue of $14.5-billion, below the $14.64-billion analysts had expected on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

It posted net income of $732-million, or 42 cents a share, in the fiscal second quarter, compared with $890-million, or 48 cents a year earlier. Excluding certain items, it earned 50 cents a share, beating an average forecast for 45 cents.

As part of a restructuring, Dell intends to slash more than $2- billion in costs over the next three years, primarily from the supply chain and sales group, as it sharpens its focus on the technology needs of corporations.

Shares of the company, which plans to pay its first dividend to shareholders this year, remain down 15 per cent in 2012, suppressed by disappointing quarterly earnings and fears that mobile devices are eroding PC spending.

The company's shares fell to $11.78 in after-hours trade. They had closed at $12.34 on the Nasdaq.

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