HP/COMPAQ: HP exec downplays merger concerns

Despite concerns expressed by some customers about Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (HP) proposed acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp., an HP executive maintained Wednesday that customers should not worry about the future, although the executive declined to comment on plans for specific product lines.

"HP as a company has not changed by one announcement of a merger, nor has Compaq," Jim McDonnell, vice president of marketing for HP's Business Customer Organization, said in a conference call with journalists. "Customer satisfaction is one of our hallmarks -- we have taken our customers through many product transitions in the past."

One issue customers of both companies have expressed concern about is the future of the vendors' competing Unix operating systems, HP's HP-UX, and Compaq's Tru64. Some users have said they fear a merged company would not continue to support the overlapping products, with some expressing fears that Tru64's days may be numbered. [See "HP/COMPAQ - Future uncertain for customers," Sept. 5.]Despite repeated questions from reporters, McDonnell would not shed any light on the future of either operating system. "At this point in the game, we're not giving roadmaps as to what's going to happen with Tru64 or HP-UX," he said. Yesterday, top executives at the companies said they will not make any announcements until plans to transition customers are in place.

McDonnell was similarly tight-lipped about other overlapping product lines, saying that "the companies are still competitors" until the acqusition is complete. However, he did note that the two companies' consulting and outsourcing operations are largely complementary, pointing to geographic areas where one company has a presence and the other does not.

Another area where the companies' offerings are complementary is handheld computers, McDonnell said. While HP's Jornada has found success among consumers, Compaq's iPaq has been focused on the enterprise market, according to McDonnell.

While he said the merger is likely six to eight months away from regulatory approval, the companies don't expect to be forced to sacrifice any business units in the U.S. or in Europe, McDonnell said. "We believe it will go through as is," he said. "We are not expecting any regulatory issues whatsoever."

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