Dell slams Compaq

With Compaq Computer Corp.'s management shedding executives every few weeks, it may seem like good time for the company's competitors to put on the heat.

That's just what Dell Computer Corp. CEO Michael Dell plans to do.

"We see huge opportunities to gain share in the current environment and we are going after them full speed," Dell said in an e-mail yesterday.

Earlier this week, Compaq announced that John Rose, who oversaw the enterprise division, was leaving. Rose is the third top level executive to leave the company since the departure of CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer and CFO Earl Mason in April.

Compaq also announced that it was appointing Michael Capellas interim chief operating officer to work with the three-member office of the CEO, while the company looks for a replacement for Pfeiffer.

Compaq has been struggling on many fronts, trying to integrate its acquisition of Digital Equipment Corp. and attempting find a happy medium between direct sales and channel sales. The company has tried to streamline its channel strategies by limiting the number of distributors it works with and has begin to do some direct sales, but Dell said that's where they will have problems. "I don't believe a hybrid model will work. To walk away from the channel, looks impossible," Dell said.

Analysts agreed with Dell that this may be the time to move forward. "Anytime you can create fear, uncertainty and doubt with the world's number one PC maker you're going to take advantage of it," said Bruce Stephen, an analyst at International Data Corp. in the U.S. "Especially the enterprise market which is sort of the crown jewels of computing. It's such a competitive market. You've got to take share [away from someone else] there because aren't a lot of new users being added."

The consumer market is also key, and it's also easier to convert users, said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at USBancorp Piper Jaffrey in Minneapolis.

Dell said his company is planning a "major push" in that market later this year. But he'll need to be careful, particularly when it comes to pricing, Kumar warned. "Once the direct guys open up this up to [low-cost PCs] it becomes a Pandora's box they can't shut off the supply," he said. "Indirect vendors can shut off the valve and allocate a specific number of SKUs and no more."