Will K-mart And Sears Be Another HP And Compaq?


Because it's an industry of optimists, not to mention hype artists, IT tends to be a very forward-looking market--such a forward-looking market, in fact, that we don't often get a chance to look back at the really big events to see what's happened since.

But the blog Inventing Money is doing just that. It compares the rivalries both Hewlett-Packard and Compaq had with Dell before the HP-Compaq merger to the Sears and K-mart rivalries with Wal-Mart:

Since the [Compaq-HP] deal was announced HPQ has gained 10.9 percent, Dell has outperformed that performance seven times over with gains of 79.6 percent, and even the Nasdaq has gained 18.5 percent. The two companies had high degree of customer and product overlap. Dell gained market share while HPQ was too busy in integration (wholesale head count reduction), streamlining product lines, supply-chain management and customer transitions. Compaq jewels like high-end servers and storage systems, which had a commanding market lead, were left in the dirt of integration shuffle.

There is no denying that Dell has continued to grow in value and boost its sales by leaps and bounds since the combination of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq. But it's also fair to say that while the new HP has held its ground in services during this time, Dell has been struggling to make good on Michael Dell's promise of becoming a $10 billion global services company.

HP saw its services revenue grow to $13.7 billion for its recently completed 2004 fiscal year, a jump of $1.4 billion over its services revenue from 2003. Meanwhile, since Michael Dell's $10 billion promise, Round Rock, Texas-based Dell has declined to detail how much revenue or profit its services business provides. In fact, Dell doesn't say much of anything about its services business.

So while K-mart and Sears may be joining forces to compete with Wal-Mart in the low-cost product distribution space, HP's total business--including salaried employees as well as a complex legion of skilled channel partners--involves a lot more than slashing prices and moving boxes.

Some can accuse HP CEO and Chairman Carly Fiorina of being too optimistic in talking about how the merger with Compaq would go. But for now, there's a certain $10 billion promise out of Round Rock that also may have been a little too rosy at the time.

Bluelight specials might work for household items, but it's not something that has ever shown success in delivering value in high-tech.