Many authors have claimed it was because she MISSED the forecasts, others that Dell whipped her.
Let's start with a graph from August 31, 2001, the day before HP announced plans to buy Compaq (Sept 4, 2001, 7 days before 9-11), and go to Christmas of 2004, which is when the HP Board apparently had had enough of Fiorina. Here's the comparison of six high-tech companies.
Note the numbers in the upper left hand corner. DELL +81%, CISCO +7%, IBM and ORACLE -7%, HP -16% and INTEL -19% Not exactly 'knocking 'em dead'
Then look at this June 2007 posting: Dell said fiscal year 2003's first quarter, which ended in May 2002, and fiscal 2004's second quarter, ended in August 2003, would be hit hardest, with net income and earnings a share falling 10% to 13%. Earnings for its 2005 fiscal fourth quarter reduced by 7%
Note on the graph when Dell's stock 'took off'--coincident with the manipulations. So, at one level, we might claim that Carly's stock market results were sabotaged. The same could be said for revenue and profits?
Another way to look at this was Customer Satisfaction. "DELL HELL" was the proverbial tagline given by Dell owners during this period, and Fiorina fouind statistical data to back up her claims in mid-2004 that Dell's customer base was growing restless. Here's an excerpt from page 471 in The HP Phenomenon:
At a 2007 Kellogg Conference on corporate governance, Fiorina cited four leading indicators to track: customer satisfaction, rate of innovations, diversity, and ethics. She focused briefly on Dell:
Customer satisfaction metrics tell you whether customers will continue to buy in the future or whether they will begin to seek alternatives. If customer satisfac- tion is deteriorating, a revenue or margin decline is inevitable. It may not happen next quarter, it may not happen next year, but it will happen. Had investors re- ally been paying attention to Dell Computer’s customer satisfaction metrics, they could have seen it coming. Beginning in about 2003, HP’s customer satisfaction metrics were improving every single quarter. It was public data. And Dell’s were deteriorating every quarter. It was only a matter of time.10
Dell, the leader in PCs for nearly a decade, began losing share to HP starting in spring 2004. Over the next eight quarters, Fiorina’s conviction that the customer satisfaction index was a precursor came true, as the Austin company’s performance eroded. The financial numbers became suspect as well by mid-2005, a problem that showed when Dell failed to file year-end audited results. In early 2006, HP’s personal computer busi- ness emerged as the leader in revenues and units. The wheels really came off at Dell in 2007; Hackborn’s championing of Wintel, the perseverance of Carly and her board in the merger fight, and Hurd’s steady operational hand prevailed.
The question of what happened after Fiorina found this Satisfaction index is shown in the next Stock Market graph:
Fiorina posed the Satisfaction index issue to the Board after HP's 3rd Qtr 2004 results--the comparative stock market price for Dell and HP thereafter through Hurd's full year of 2006 is dramatic--HP up 120%, Dell down 30%. But notice that by 3rd Qtr 2005, HP was up 60%and Dell was just crossing ZERO. This is the measure of Carly's impact, not yet Hurd's. The revenue numbers for 2nd Qtr 2005 at Dell were disquieting to the market, which wouldn't know for another year of acctg irregularities
Given that the revenue and profit manipulations of 2003 and 2004 at Dell had already happened, and been disguised, one might logically argue that the Olympic Gold Medal should be stripped and 2nd place wins after all. But, this is real life, not the Olympics, and Fiorina was only able to watch Hurd take credit for HP catching Dell.