Dell's sales drop appears closely related to confusion caused by its move to go private, said Chris Case, president of Sequel Data Systems, an Austin, Texas-based solution provider and long-time HP solution provider.
"Dell's going private created a lot of unknowns," Case said. "There was talk about slashing people. A lot of concerns."
Case said customers were worried about what would happen at Dell during the privatization battle.
"It's just like when HP a year or two ago took a big hit when there was talk about spinning off the HP PC business," he said. "Dell is in disarray. HP is coming out of disarray."
Another HP solution provider, who requested anonymity, said Dell's pricing has been extremely aggressive as it prepares to battle without investors' watchful eyes.
"They think, screw Wall Street, we're going private," the solution provider said.
That solution provider said HP's upcoming new server management software is also helping HP attract business from Dell.
It has recently become more difficult, or at least less easy, to buy Dell servers, said Christopher Buono, team manager for Paragus Strategic I.T., a Hadley, Mass.-based solution provider and Dell partner.
Dell's website makes it difficult to get price quotes, and partners have to jump through several hoops to take advantage of the vendor's channel program, including communicating with the company three or four times in order to get the best price, Buono said.
"In the past, we could go to one place, log in and save a quote," he said. "Now we have to take a snapshot of a quote and email it to the sales reps. It can take three to four back-and-forths to get the price we need."
HP declined to directly address Gartner's preliminary third-quarter server sales.
However, Paul Santeler, vice president and general manager of the Hyperscale Business Unit within HP's Industry Standard Servers and Software business, said his company has a lot of respect for its competitors.
"That said, this is a battle," Santeler said. "We're out here to win. Our goal is to change the trend. And these quarterly results show that the trend has changed."
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