Partners: What Happens Now with HP and Linux?

Will Fiorina's departure change how HP approaches Linux? Partners, analysts and resellers have different answers.

Hewlett-Packard Co. has been a strong Linux supporter, but since CEO Fiorina has been forced out, what will happen next?

Novell Inc., one of HPs three major Linux partners—the others being Red Hat Inc. and Mandrakesoft SA—sees business as usual ahead.

Bruce Lowry, Novells director of PR, said, "HP is, and remains, a strong partner of Novell. We dont anticipate any changes in that." HPs other Linux vendors and its Unix partner, The SCO Group Inc., had no comment.

On the other hand, Stacey Quandt, a senior business analyst with the Robert Frances Group, said she thinks that "if the HP board allows the server division to be sold off this would impact HPs Linux strategy for servers."

However, she said, that doesnt mean HP would then get out of Linux. "HP has a home entertainment focus that is based on Linux and this initiative is likely to continue with HP labs research and product offerings," Quandt said.

Similarly, the Yankee Group, a Boston-based research firm, doesnt expect Ms. Fiorinas exit from HP to have any impact on the companys Linux plans, said Laura DiDio, a senior analyst.

"HP has a very strong play in Linux, particularly in the services arena. And it outsold IBM in Linux hardware in 2003. Additionally, HP, like IBM, maintains strong partnerships with the two top Linux distributors: Red Hat and Novell," DiDio said.

"Martin Fink, who heads HPs Linux unit, is a strong, experienced manager with a clear vision of what it takes to make HP succeed in Linux," she said.

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Others arent as optimistic.

Jason Perlow, president of Argonaut Systems, a systems integration company in northern New Jersey that works with Linux and Solaris, sees HP trying to play catch up with IBM in Linux. He also sees HP constantly changing its Linux strategy.

"What do I think of their Linux move? Which one? Theyve had no fewer than six Linux reorganizations in the last three years," Perlow said.

From a Unix reseller point of view, Perlow said, "HP is dwarfed by IBMs experience and commitment to the platform. They are incapable of creating the networks of integrators and resellers that IBM is currently doing."

"When push comes to shove, there is little incentive to push HP hardware and solutions over IBM ones because IBM always, always wins on services," Perlow said. "IBM also has better leveraged third party software partnerships than HP. HP has not been able to build a Linux support and services infrastructure that is competitive with IBMs. Thats really the bottom line. So, on proposals HP always loses."

"If you want to sum it up, HP is not IBM [when it comes to Linux.] And, when it comes to commodity PCs, they make a pretty poor Dell too. Thats really simplistic, but thats the best answer Ive got," Perlow said.

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