HP wraps up its fiscal year in October, so its news of 2011 arrives today, three weeks after a tough year has closed. The fourth quarter results arrive in a webcast starting at 5PM EST. It's a period with a potential PC business pullout, the flameout of a tablet and a mobile OS, an ongoing war with its biggest database partner, and the ouster of another CEO.
Even with all those anchors dragging down the company, analysts expect HP to report flat sales -- equal to 2010's Q4 -- while profits are forecast at $1.13 a share. HP missed analyst estimates last time out, a quarter tougher than any other the CFO Cathie Lesjak ever reported. After shares fell into the low $20s, they're up 40 percent today trading around $28.
HP's business health means something to the 3000 site which has migrated to the vendor's other platforms, or plans to do so. But its Unix solutions are really becoming a choice for a very large customer. "HP has become a provider for the largest customers they have," said Michael Marxmeier, whose Eloquence database has exploited HP-UX at least as much as any supplier. He even engineered database components to outperform their OS complements. "The largest customers need scalability and the largest HP boxes," he added. "If you work in the low-end and midsize end of the market, you will hardly find an HP-UX box anymore."
The current state of HP's Unix business will be reflected in its details on Integrity servers and the Business Critical Systems numbers. This is about the only metric we follow closely; ProLiant sales for Windows and Linux (the ISS group) have been healthy. BCS includes OpenVMS and NonStop sales, but HP-UX is a very large share, too. The future for these environments relies on Itanium and any new customers HP can cobble up for its Unix.