Alpha warning as Compaq and Hewlett-Packard become one

Hewlett-Packard and Compaq finally launched their merged company on 7 May, following HP's court victory over dissident...

Hewlett-Packard and Compaq finally launched their merged company on 7 May, following HP's court victory over dissident shareholder Walter Hewlett last week.

The company is now expected to announce its roadmap for the harmonisation of its product lines, which may bring bad news for owners of Compaq Alpha Servers. There has also been speculation that 15,000 jobs could be cut.

Customers of the new company will be anxiously waiting to hear the plans. Craig Res, a computer scientist at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories in the US, said, "As an HP customer for 15 years, I am cautiously optimistic, but I fear it is going to throw the company into a loop for 18 months."

Martin McGuckin, research area director and vice-president at analyst firm Gartner, said, "The main challenge within the first 100 days of the merger is to rebuild the trust of the customer and boost the morale of the staff against a backdrop of redundancies. The image of HP has been tarnished by the proxy battle and it must now go out and communicate with its customers."

McGuckin believes that this is a massive challenge. "Neither company has been seen as a marketing powerhouse. In fact, their marketing has been dull and based on technology. They need to find a way to describe what is happening that is inspiring - but my fear is that it will still sound boring," he said.

According to McGuckin, most customers have nothing much to fear from the changes that will come. The PC and handheld market will mainly be ceded to Compaq, the Himalaya and Alpha migration to Itanium will continue, and the move from PA-Risc to Itanium in the HP Unix world will also proceed.

The main threat he sees is to Tru64, the Unix that runs on the Alpha. "I don't expect Tru64 to go to Itanium, but I believe the Alpha line will still be actively marketed for three to four years and supported long afterwards. My advice to customers is to show extreme caution and not to consider Alpha Unix systems for mission-critical applications."

Also on the Alpha, McGuckin is less worried about OpenVMS and believes that it will be migrated to run on Itanium.

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