Arik Hesseldahl

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HP’s Moonshot Gives Analysts a Case of the “Mehs”

For all the hopes that have been pinned to Hewlett-Packard’s new line of tiny servers known as Moonshot, announced for shipment today, analysts certainly weren’t feeling it.

Reserving judgment, two analysts wondered in notes to clients today if even the most optimistic outcome for Moonshot is enough to get HP on track.

Moonshot is a “step in the right direction,” wrote Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee, but he wondered if large Web companies could be persuaded to buy from HP rather than have their own custom servers built for them. “But we are not sure if big customers including Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Twitter would switch from their current model where they procure customized server and storage components from Quanta and Compal.”

And even if successful, Moonshot might not have a big enough impact to nudge HP sales upward, Wu wrote, noting that servers account for roughly 25 percent of sales, versus PCs and printers, both in decline, which combined account for about half. “We believe the company’s turnaround remains tough as it remains to be seen whether its enterprise efforts are enough to offset continued challenges in its PC, printer, and services businesses,” he wrote.

It’s also going to take a while for revenue from Moonshot sales to start showing up in HP’s results, says Brian Marshall of ISI. “While we do not anticipate meaningful revenue from Moonshot in the next few quarters, we see it as a positive step towards maintaining HPQ’s number one share position in servers longer-term.”

Not all voices were so reserved. Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy who was on stage with HP execs at the launch today, said the most interesting thing about the Moonshot line is not the fact that it uses less energy or takes up less space than conventional servers, but that it works with all sorts of different chips to attack the computing job at hand. Yes, it supports conventional CPU chips like Intel’s Atom and ARM-based server chips like those from Calxeda, but also GPU chips from Nvidia; digital signal processor chips, like those made by Texas Instruments; and field-programmable gate arrays, the software-defined chips turned out by companies like Altera and Xilinx. That, he says, gives it “the potential to change the game in scale-out data centers.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work