Dell

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Traditionally, Dell beat competitors by offering hardware consumers could completely customize to their needs. But now that it’s mass-producing hardware so it can match rivals on price, Dell is rethinking its business model.The plan? Take steps to become a larger presence in emerging markets. Dell has become the leading laptop seller in India, a big growth market even if it accounts for less than 2% of the company’s global sales.

Like other techs, Dell also is expanding its cloud and customer support services. Toward that end, Dell will shell out $1 billion over the next two years on 10 data centers. —S.D.

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Apple

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Apple climbed 21 slots into the top 50 of the Fortune 500 this year. How’d it get there? The company not only continues to expand its reach in existing markets, it also keeps creating new ones.Take the iPad, which showed the world the power of tablet computing when it was introduced last year. iPad 2 followed, and was one of the most highly anticipated electronic products this year. CEO Steve Jobs’ appearance at its debut in March reassured shareholders worried about his most recent medical leave. Regardless of who’s in charge, though, investors have plenty of reason to believe Apple’s magic spell on consumers can continue. —S.D.

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Hewlett-Packard

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Five months after taking over the top spot from ousted chief Mark Hurd, new CEO Leo Apotheker spelled out his plan to transform HP. The goal: Dominate cloud computing, encouraging consumers and businesses to use HP hardware to connect with public and private networks.To do so, the company will draw heavily on recent acquisitions, including last year’s $2.7 billion purchase of 3Com and its $1.2 billion buyout of Palm.

Already the world’s biggest PC manufacturer, HP secured a partnership with IBM to become the world’s biggest seller of servers. —P.N.

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