It ain’t over ’til it’s over

It’s hard to write a story about why we’re not writing a story, but here goes:

The final shareholder approval of the US$22 billion merger between Hewlett-Packard and Compaq has not been decided. Allow me to repeat for the sake of emphasis: it is nowhere close to being decided.

In

my ignorance of these matters, I had contacted HP Canada’s corporate representatives last week to find out how the results would be revealed to an industry hungry for some resolution of this controversial coupling. I assumed that by the twenty-first century there were high-tech ways to tabulate the votes. I didn’t realize there was actual snail mail involved here. That’s because most merger stories don’t take on the theatrics equivalent to the Canadian government’s referendum on Quebec’s separation in the mid-1990s. Usually the deal is announced, it gets a rubber stamp and we explore the repercussions.

In this case, I was informed that we wouldn’t know the final outcome of the vote for weeks. Of course, that didn’t stop HP from issuing a statement late Tuesday that its management believes it has won the battle (though reportedly by a margin of about one per cent). Compaq, meanwhile, held an ecstatic conference call to declare its shareholders had happily endorsed the deal with one of the largest margins in industry history, but that means nothing if HP’s shareholders aren’t on board. Mainstream media have since run with the story, adding further speculation where none is needed. The votes will be counted and the results reported — in due time. Although there will likely be challenges to the process (the most recent presidential election in the United States taught dissidents some valuable lessons in stalling for time) there is some hope that we will have the answer we are looking for soon — whether or not it is the answer that everyone likes.

Then, on Wednesday my immediate supervisor approached me to find out why we didn’t have the HP/Compaq story on the site. I explained that there was nothing to report yet, and that it would be irresponsible to do otherwise. He accepted that, but after our discussion, I realized that by doing what I believe is the right thing, we may appear to have missed the boat. That’s why I decided some explanation is in order. Because we haven’t missed the boat: the good ship HP-Compaq is still in drydock.

Stories like the HP/Compaq merger are the most difficult kind we cover at ITBusiness.ca. They are not, on the surface, Canadian stories. Though they have an impact on customers and channel partners here, the effects are indirect and can take a long time to materialize. Canadian content is our strength, and though we could easily fill up this Web site and our printed publications with U.S.-related stories, they would provide little value beyond what is already offered by U.S. news sources. On the other hand, there are some stories that take place outside our borders which offer some insights or possible lessons to the Canadian IT industry which are worth consideration. That’s why I created our daily editorial. I don’t always have the answers but I think I can raise the right questions, and hopefully put things in a helpful context. I have already written several editorials about this possible merger; I plan to write another when (and only when) HP and Compaq’s future is confirmed and (assuming the deal goes through) they publicly outline their product and services roadmap.

We will also round out our coverage with reaction from customers and industry analysts while providing a detailed chronology of how this story has unfolded. As self-righteous as it no doubt sounds, this seems the only appropriate way to handle such a slowly evolving story. Leave it to Carly Fiorina and others to count their chickens before they’re hatched. The truth is, we’re all still looking at the eggs.

sschick@itbusiness.ca

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