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If victory indeed belongs to Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard's business customers will hear details on product road maps and how the new company will serve them as soon as IVS Associates signs off on the final vote count by HP shareholders. However, the independent election inspector could take as long as three more weeks to complete the tally because the contest is so close.
Compaq shareholders easily approved the acquisition--at $22 billion, the biggest in the history of the technology industry--on March 20, one day after HP stockholders voted.
As soon as legal closure of the deal is possible, the plan created by a 900-member team to combine the two companies will kick in, Fiorina said at a press conference after HP's special shareholder meeting in Cupertino, Calif. "All that planning is completed and in place so that we can talk to customers," she said.
HP will be ready to talk to customers as soon as the Compaq deal is approved, Fiorina says.
The combined company will change the dynamics of both the PC and Unix server businesses; HP will assume the mantle of market leader in each.
There will be one less competitor in each market. But customers that previously bought from both Compaq and HP may prefer to maintain a diverse supplier base. Dell Computer saw its stock rise 64 cents, or 2.4%, to $27.03 on March 19, after news of the HP vote broke. The stock remained up all last week.
IBM and Sun Microsystems will benefit because HP and Compaq will be forced to support their respective Unix offerings for the next few years, a costly endeavor. Customers of Compaq's Tru64 Unix operating system are the eventual losers, since it will be phased out in favor of HP's version.
But that's still a few years away. Says International Data Corp. research director Al Gillen, "Customers don't need to panic yet."