On the radar
What to watch in the weeks ahead.
(Fortune Magazine) -- Carly Tells Her Side of the Story
The Oct. 9 release of Carly Fiorina's 336-page memoir, Tough Choices -- and the attendant publicity hoopla -- will resurrect an old question that's difficult to answer but irresistible to ask: Was Carly right about the tortured 2001 merger between Hewlett-Packard and Compaq? The whole venture looked like a fiasco 19 months ago when the HP board dismissed Fiorina from the CEO post, not long after Fortune ran its cover story "Why Carly's Big Bet is Failing."
Much less so today. Under Mark Hurd, HP is on fire. A lot of what you need to know is in the company's operating profit margins, especially in the segments that were languishing under Fiorina's watch. In 2004 the margins on PCs were 0.9%, and for HP's enterprise systems, 1.1%. In the three quarters reported so far this year, PC margins were 3.8% and enterprise, 7.5% -- the result of Hurd's cost cutting, revamped salesforce, and new strategic initiatives. Those figures also happen to be much closer to the ones Fiorina promised but never delivered. One theory in circulation is that Fiorina was all vision, no execution. That's why someone like Hurd -- a real nuts-and-bolts type -- has made all the difference. He broke up the monolithic (and dysfunctional) sales team from the Fiorina era into smaller business units. And don't forget: Morale under Fiorina was so low that one could argue HP had to switch jockeys. Year-end revenues are on track to be 5% greater than last year's, which will newly crown HP as the world's largest computer company. If Fiorina wants to claim that as part of her legacy, you'll hear all about it on her book tour.
Seeking Bright Ideas
Solar energy gets a moment in the sun on Oct. 16, when the annual trade show, Solar Power 2006, starts in San Jose. Last year VC bucks gushed into solar (doubling over 2004). But competition from other alternative fuels has heated up this year, and capital influx has slowed. So solar sellers are making this year's show a huge event. Registration is up sevenfold, and VC heavy Vinod Khosla, who started a green-tech fund this year, will keynote. If this year's show is like last year's, when 39% of attendees said they made a deal, 2006 might yet be another big year for solar.
The Futures Market
Oct. 7 Sony's high-definition DVD camcorder, the world's first for consumers, hits shelves in the U.S. It also has a first-gen pricetag: $1,400.
Oct. 12 The EU votes on whether to open its skies to competition. If the vote is yes, it would end regulations that say U.S. airlines can't fly intra-Euro routes.
Oct. 15 The last of the new EPA fuel rules takes effect: Diesel must have less sulfur. Experts say the change will cause delays at refineries -- and price hikes for diesel and regular gas.
Oct. 20 Serious space geeks launch rockets and compete for $2.5 million in prizes at the X Prize Cup in New Mexico.