One day all the top PC makers may look like enterprise computing companies.

That seems to be the vision of the men behind the men who run computer companies. Men such as

Compaq

(CPQ)

Chairman Ben Rosen, who this weekend abruptly forced out the company's top two officers, CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer and CFO Earl Mason, for failing to transform the PC-centric company into more of an Internet and enterprise computing outfit.

Pfeiffer and Mason had lost Wall Street's respect, which may have played a part in Rosen's

bloody Sunday decision. "There was so much bad blood between management and the Street that Rosen needed a clean slate," says Ashok Kumar, a senior analyst at

Piper Jaffray

.

But with the price wars in the PC sector, it is the enterprise computing companies that supply Internet hardware (servers and workstations) and services that are showing robust growth and earnings. And it is not just Compaq that is trying to come to grips with the changing tech landscape.

Hewlett-Packard's

(HWP)

decision to split up, spinning off its measurement division, was driven by a desire to concentrate more on Internet and enterprise computing issues. H-P founder Bill Hewlett told CEO Lew Platt to step down next year after Platt completes a makeover that will give more autonomy to business units.

In a Box at Compaq
Big PC makers' stock performance over two years

Ann Livermore, CEO of H-P's Enterprise Computing Solutions unit, is seen as a candidate who will

lead the company in the future. In the fiscal first quarter ended in December, Livermore's division accounted for 38% of overall revenue. Whether she takes over for Platt remains to be seen, because H-P is also outside candidates.

One of the top candidates for both H-P and Compaq may very well be Rick Beluzzo, now CEO of

SGI

(SGI)

. Beluzzo, the former No. 2 at H-P, jumped over to rival SGI in 1998, which probably means he is much more likely to be considered a Compaq candidate. "He burned too many bridges at H-P," says an institutional hedge fund manager who requested anonymity.

An early internal favorite at Compaq is John Rose, manager of the company's enterprise computing group. "If Compaq decides to go internal, he may take over because he is responsible for the key growth area of enterprise computing," says Dan Niles, an analyst at

BancBoston Robertson Stephens

. Robbie Stephens and Piper Jaffray have not done any Compaq underwriting.

Compaq's first choice would be to bring in a rising star at another company, such as

Dell's

(DELL) - Get Report

Tom Meredith, or

IBM's

(IBM) - Get Report

Sam Pailmasano, but "hiring one of these people would be extraordinarily difficult," says an institutional money manager who requested anonymity. The manager, who owns Compaq stock, says the company doesn't have a world-class internal candidate, but says services manager John Rando -- formerly of

Digital Equipment

-- may be a year or two away from taking over at Compaq. Another alternative is to go after a big-name candidate from another field, much like what IBM did in bringing in Lou Gerstner from

RJR Nabisco

(RN)

.

It's not as if Compaq's Pfeiffer didn't see this enterprise computing wave coming. He engineered two huge acquisitions, of

Tandem

and Digital, to help the company move in this direction. The DEC acquisition, however, may have been too big for anyone to handle, says Paul Schupf, a money manager with

Paul J. Schupf Associates

.

"I think Compaq is going to be a basket case for months, and Dell will be the major beneficiary from this," says Schupf, who owns Dell stock. Dell, which like Compaq is headquartered in Texas, has always been a major thorn in Pfeiffer's side. One money manager who requested anonymity said Pfeiffer was desperate to beat Dell. By cutting PC prices below Dell's price points, he almost destroyed Compaq in the process. "There was a real hatred between Pfeiffer and Dell," says the manager, who doesn't have a position in either stock. "He wanted to beat Dell, but he didn't have the soldiers."

Now it's up to Rosen and his board to decide who is best suited to lead Compaq in this new direction.

Who do you think Compaq should replace Pfeiffer with?

IBM's Sam Pailmasano

Compaq's John Rando

Dell's Tom Meredith

Compaq's John Rose

Sun's Ed Zander