Hewlett-Packard Rings Dell's Bells

H-P's sales and service push threatens Dell's business user market.
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) --


(HPQ) - Get Report

takes aim at


(DELL) - Get Report

business with its double barrel -- sales and service - combination.

Dell is a little vulnerable at this point. Its strategy to expand into the retail consumer market proved fitful last year, and its about-face on the direct sales and assembly model to an outsourced manufacturing approach has been rocky.

The former No. 1 PC maker has fallen to No. 3 as rivals like Hewlett-Packard and


have taken market share. Hewlett-Packard has capitalized on Dell's missteps, especially in its core business of corporate sales.

"We have increased our sales coverage, which we think is part of the reason that you have seen this performance occur as it has," CEO Mark Hurd said on an earnings conference call with analysts Monday. "Second, we've worked really hard to work on our service experience and the service experience is a really big deal," he added, according to a transcript published on SeekingAlpha.

Hewlett-Packard's integration of IT services shop EDS and the pending $2.7 billion acquisition of business networking shop 3Coms gives Hurd confidence that Hewlett-Packard can get more wins with so-called enterprise customers.

"We see an opportunity to return the company to growth in 2010, leveraging on what we think is an improved operating model," Hurd told analysts.

Hewlett-Packard posted earnings and sales numbers in line with previously announced results Monday.

Adjusted earnings were $1.14, up from $1.03 in the year-ago quarter and a penny better than the $1.13 pro forma profit analysts were looking for, according to Yahoo Finance.

Sales for Hewlett-Packard's fiscal fourth quarter ended last month were $30.8 billion down from the $33.6 billion level in the same period last year and slightly better than the $30.4 billion target analysts had hoped for.

Dell shares were down 1% to $14.59, and Hewlett-Packard shares were down less than a percentage point in early trading Tuesday.