Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Dell Claims Server Share Gains, Calls HP Losses “Staggering”

There’s a long tradition of trash-talking between large tech companies, but the exchange between Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell and Hewlett-Packard over the state of server sales in the first quarter of the year would likely take a prize.

On Friday afternoon, Dell gave an interview to the trade publication CRN (which used to be called Computer Reseller News) crowing about his company’s apparent share gains in the market for servers.

What got him excited was preliminary data (as in, not yet published) from the market research firm IDC, which followed similar findings from another research firm, Gartner (again, not yet published), that supposedly shows healthy gains for Dell and big losses at HP.

According to the numbers Dell shared with CRN, IDC found Dell — No. 2 in the worldwide server market — to have grown its share of the server market to nearly 28 percent, while HP’s fell from north of 35 percent a year to slightly below 31 percent. “HP is losing share at a staggering rate, and they are losing it to Dell,” Dell proclaimed.

HP, which had led the segment for the better part of two decades, didn’t respond to Dell’s claims. But it did respond a day earlier, after Dell enterprise chief Marius Haas gave a similar interview — again to CRN — claiming similar data from Gartner. “One quarter does not a trend make. … 17 years is a trend,” retorted Jim Ganthier, a marketing exec in HP’s server group.

Dell hasn’t bothered to wait for either research firm to finalize and publish their data, and I’ve asked both firms to comment on that. I’m no expert in the processes these firms follow, but from what I understand, execs at companies like Dell, HP and IBM see these “preliminary” figures before they get published in order to give the company a chance to dispute them if they vary from what’s really going on. When Gartner and IDC get around to publishing press releases, expect Dell to make a second push on this topic, and maybe give more interviews.

Dell naturally has an urge to pounce on HP and score a few punches. HP has been using the occasion of Dell’s $24.4 billion leveraged-buyout plan to create uncertainty among Dell customers. Way back on Feb. 5, when the buyout plan was first floated, HP issued a statement saying, “Leveraged buyouts tend to leave existing customers and innovation at the curb. We believe Dell’s customers will now be eager to explore alternatives, and HP plans to take full advantage of that opportunity.”

With IBM said to be in on-again, off-again talks with China’s Lenovo to sell its industry-standard server business, and Dell going private, HP is arguing that it is the one major vendor not engaged in a significant corporate shake-up, and thus able to focus most on its customers’ needs. Indeed, HP’s Dave Donatelli led a major Webcast with HP partners last week, touting that very message.

Neither company’s shares are really responding to any of the trash-talking today. HP shares are up slightly this morning to $20.76 a share, while Dell shares are also up a little to $13.35, or about 30 cents below the $13.65 buyout price that Michael Dell and private-equity firm Silver Lake have offered to take the company private.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik