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HP's $20 Billion Boast

It sounded cool. It sounded important. It was neither. After Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) posted a healthy quarter last night, CEO Carly Fiorina had to point out that this was the first time in the company's 80-year history that quarterly revenues topped the $20 billion mark.

Buying into that remark would mean admitting that just maybe the company was right to acquire Compaq nearly three years ago. If you did buy in, ask for a refund.

In justifying the merger at the time, Hewlett-Packard pointed to the operating efficiencies that could be tacked on to its $47 billion in annual revenues and Compaq's $40 billion. In other words, the two companies logged $87 billion in combined sales the year before they got engaged. Obviously, quite a few quarters found the companies topping the $20 billion mark combined.

I'm not one to rain on a parade -- and the company's report was worthy of high stepping with the marching band -- but I just couldn't let that one slide.

With that out of the way, the quarter was refreshingly sound. That $20.1 billion in revenue was in fact a 12% improvement over last year. And while only a dyslexic would find that superior to Dell's (Nasdaq: DELL  ) 21% surge in revenue over the same period, don't leave just yet. The parade gets better.

Earnings for the quarter rose by 32% to $0.29 a share on widening margins. HP also hiked its outlook for the remainder of the year. It now looks to earn $0.79 a share in the year's final half on revenues of $39.7 billion to $40.7 billion.

The flagship imaging and printing business continues to account for the lion's share of its operating profits, so perhaps HP isn't much closer to vindicating its purchase of Compaq. Still, rival box makers like Gateway (NYSE: GTW  ) and Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) can take heart that the outlook for the industry's major players continues to improve.

Unlike HP's dubious $20 billion pitch, that's something worth buying.

Has your computer been acting up lately? Is it time to upgrade? What's a worm and can it bite into your Apple? All this and more -- in the Help with this STUPID Computer! discussion board. Only on

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wrote this story on his HP computer hooked to a Dell monitor. He does not own shares in any company mentioned.

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