HP's decision to buy EDS for US$13.9 billion this morning offers considerable potential benefits but the execution carries significant risks, according to analysts from IDC, a sister company of ComputerWorldUK.
The IDC European Software and Services Group said that the combined organization would be "very strong on infrastructure, but ... relatively light, compared to IBM and Accenture, (on) business-level dialogue with the customer.
"And business-level dialogue is no longer a luxury, it's an essential part of winning the higher-margin and indeed higher-growth services such as application management and business process outsourcing."
Ovum analysts Phil Codling, Tom Kucharvy, John Madden, said the merger has the potential to "shake up" the entrenched competitive landscape for global IT services.
"The top ten or so of the IT services industry have barely changed places, let alone ownership, despite interminable rumors and private equity interest. But here comes a possible very big play indeed - big not just for HP and EDS, but also in terms of its potential to shake up the entrenched competitive landscape in global IT services."
However, HP is also faced with a massive integration program. "It's difficult to comment on how an HP-EDS integration might theoretically proceed, but it would inevitably entail risks."
"Combining services portfolios and delivery platforms to maximize economies of scale would be a huge task. Of course people are the greatest asset of a services business and, despite HP's new found organizational efficiencies under Mark Hurd, HP would need to move quickly to stem any potential 'brain drain' from EDS," the analysts said.
"On paper an HP-EDS combination looks workable. But in practice it could prove anything but," they added.
Adding EDS, with revenues of US$22.1bn in 2007, would more than double the size of HP's services business, which has US$16.6bn in revenues. The resulting US$39bn services operation would still be smaller than IBM Global Services, which has revenues of US$54bn. But "the merger would bridge this gap substantially and establish the merged entity as the clear number two in IT services," said Ovum.
At a round table meeting held this morning by ICT vendor group Intellect, veteran industry watcher and analyst Richard Holway said: "I've been forecasting that a tier-one player will take over another tier-one player for 15 years and now it's finally proven that I was right. For larger companies, consolidating is clearly the right thing to do."