If the stock market is a financial popularity contest, H-P ( HPQ) has lately looked like a wallflower.

The company's shares have been abandoned on the sidelines amid a run-up that has propelled most tech stocks upward since April -- and that says as much about investors' expectations as anything.

Year to date, H-P's stock price has actually lost ground, down 2.8% compared to a 10.1% rise for the S&P computer hardware index. In the same period, Dell ( DELL) tacked on 13.4%, while IBM ( IBM) grew 11.5%.

No big surprise, then, that while H-P is expected to deliver second-quarter earnings on target, the Street still can't summon up much enthusiasm for the shares.

"H-P has been a cost-cutting story for the better part of the year, basically since the merger with Compaq. But a lot of that story is done, and now H-P is really being forced to address the revenue side of the story," says one buy-side analyst.

The revenue picture isn't reassuring: Analysts believe the company's April-quarter sales will slip 2.6% from a year ago. Compare that with rivals Dell and IBM, which recently posted sales growth of 18% and 11% for the same period.

"IBM and Dell have been very aggressive in market share in servers and the PC business, and now Dell's doing printers. So there's pressure from all sides," points out the analyst. "People are looking at the eventual recovery and who's going to have better revenue growth. You're probably better off with the other two."

On the sell side, some analysts have expressed concerns about a possible revenue shortfall in H-P's April quarter, though others think the company can meet the numbers.

Among the more hopeful is Merrill Lynch, which has argued that a favorable currency exchange should help H-P to match or even exceed revenues and EPS expectations. (H-P will benefit from the weak dollar, since it pulls in 59% of sales from overseas.) Wall Street analysts are gearing for 27 cents on $17.7 billion in sales.