Wolf owns shares in Dell but not H-P; Needham hasn't done recent banking for either company.

For its part, Dell denies the latest round of price cuts had anything to do with problems at H-P. "Whenever we can find efficiencies within our business, we'll take those efficiencies and pass them along as savings for our customers," says spokesperson Mike Maher.

Dell reported just last week that it had managed to compress already tight operating expenses to an even tighter 9.6% of revenue, down from 9.9% a year ago. "That shows that we're continuing to become even more efficient in how we do business," says Maher.

H-P's overall operating expenses amounted to 21.2% of revenue in its July quarter.

Meanwhile, H-P disputes that the price cuts are as deep and broad as Dell says. "In our experience, these types of promotions are headline-catchers, and in reality a limited number of products are actually reduced by that amount," says H-P spokesperson Brian Humphries.

He says H-P is "gaining momentum in the part of the market that is most interesting, notebooks -- the fastest-growing segment of the market and the most profitable."

In the most recent quarter, H-P said unit shipments of notebooks were up 54% from the prior year, while Dell's notebook unit shipments grew 37%.

On Wednesday, Dell shares traded down 52 cents or 1.6% to $32.30. H-P, slammed one day after an earnings disappointment, was off $2.26, or 10.2%, to $19.85.