HP's customers can count on calls from Dell, IBM

Competitors expected to take advantage of Fiorina's departure

Transitional periods at IT companies are usually followed by fervent attempts on the part of that company's competitors to take advantage of the situation with jump in sales calls, promotions, and media spin. Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) customers can expect all three in the wake of Carly Fiorina's departure Wednesday, analysts said.

HP is most closely identified with IBM and Dell, and often described as operating in a spot below IBM's enormous reach and market size and above Dell's nimble and efficient manufacturing process. Both those companies can be expected to renew their acquaintances with prominent HP customers.

"Whenever there's any disruption, the other guys can point to it," said Roger Kay, vice president of client computing with IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts.

HP itself recently launched an offensive against IBM and Lenovo Group, which announced plans to acquire IBM's PC business in December. HP told analysts and press last week that the IBM/Lenovo deal has created enough uncertainty among corporate notebook buyers that HP believes it can take the number one notebook market share spot by the end of 2005.

Now that Fiorina is out of the picture, count on IBM/Lenovo and Dell to launch the same kinds of public relations campaigns against HP, which have the potential to stymie HP's market-share goals, said Sam Bhavnani, an analyst with Current Analysis, in La Jolla, California.

However, most customers tend to wait and see how executive or strategic changes will affect their relationship with a supplier, Kay said.

The state of Washington's IT department, which uses HP products, would only switch providers if products suffered from the effects of HP's new management.

"As long as HP continues to provide high-quality products at an aggressive price, we will continue to consider them a viable option for technology products," said Bob Deshaye, assistant director in the telecommunications services department for the Washington State Department of Information Services.

Compared to HP's Compaq integration, the news of Fiorina's departure is unlikely to ruffle too many feathers in corporate purchasing departments, said Richard Doherty, director of research with The Envisioneering Group, in Seaford, New York.

"The hunch we have is that there was much more freezing of business under the merger than could possibly happen here," Doherty said.

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