Investors in Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) have one simple yet persistent, question: Where's the growth? After taking the reins of a scandal-plagued, nearly rudderless company in September 2011, CEO Meg Whitman has refocused the company in many ways. After enduring further fallout throughout 2011 and 2012, investors finally got on board in 2013, propelling the stock to a 130% gain since then. For perspective, the broader S&P 500 index is up roughly 32% during that period.
However, top-line growth has been hard to come by -- since reporting $32 billion in revenue in her first partial quarter of being CEO, the company's top line trended down to $27 billion as of the recently reported third fiscal quarter of 2014, for a rather shocking revenue drop of 15%. Investors are eager to know how Hewlett-Packard plans to grow. Does the company's new Stream line of products have the potential to reverse this decline and win the holiday season? Here's what investors should know.
What is Stream?
Stream is Hewlett-Packard's new device line; it includes both laptops and tablets. For those who follow Hewlett-Packard closely, you may remember that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner boasted of a $200 HP Stream laptop in time for the holiday season this summer. The event and product were mostly considered a response to the Google Chromebook threat and as a way to rally support for its beleaguered Windows 8 operating system with the 8.1 update. In addition, Microsoft also stopped charging hardware partners fees for screens for less than 9 inches to sweeten the deal for manufacturers.
The first Steam laptop was released with a $300 price point, leading analysts to think the $200 model was merely wishful thinking. But that was wrong; Hewlett-Packard plans to ship $200 Stream 11 laptops in time for the holiday season. In addition, the company plans to release a $100 tablet. With a low price point and additional value-added items -- an Office 365 Personal subscription for a year and a $25 gift card to buy apps from the Windows Store -- the company could have a Christmas gift hit on its hands.
And it could use a holiday hit. Although its third-quarter notebook revenue was up 10% on a quarter-over-quarter basis, and 17% on a year-over-year basis, the company's revenue gains were offset elsewhere, leading to revenue gains of just 1% on both a quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year basis.
Other winners if Steam is a hit
Outside Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft has the most to gain from Stream's success. Each laptop comes with the aforementioned Windows 8.1, and the low-cost laptop has the ability to more effectively compete with Chromebooks. Lost in the talk of Microsoft's struggling devices is that Microsoft is primarily a software company; the Office 365 subscription-based billing model is another plus over the lumpy update and device-based activation model it mostly uses now.
And while it should be noted that the Stream tablet has the potential to hurt Microsoft Surface sales by presenting a lower-cost option, Microsoft investors shouldn't worry. The two models focus on different clientele -- the Stream seeks to compete against a bevy of low-cost tablets using Google's Android operating system, whereas Microsoft's Surface portends to compete against Apple as "the tablet that can replace your laptop." Clientele overlap from these two devices should be minimal.
Finally, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is a winner here by scoring the chip spot for the Stream tablets. CEO Brian Krzanich made an ambitious call to be in 40 million tablets by the end of 2014, a call that was considered difficult to accomplish at the time even considering its generous subsidies for tablet chips. However, after reporting 5 million in the first quarter and 10 million in the second, the company is in a good position to do that going into the seasonally heavy holiday season. It appears the trends of a "good enough" tablet market have encouraged shoppers to trade down to lower-cost units.
Hewlett-Packard investors are looking for top-line growth. Although Whitman has stabilized the company and the stock finds itself in the midst of an admirable run, it can only continue if the company starts growing. It appears Hewlett-Packard is taking advantage of partner subsidies to employ a low-cost strategy this holiday season with its Stream line.
Microsoft investors should be happy as well. After years of losing market share to Google's Chromebooks and low-cost Android tablets, the company is looking to compete at the entry level. But the real winner this holiday season is the consumer that will have more choice for entry-level technology.
Jamal Carnette has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A and C shares), and Intel and owns shares of Apple, Google (A and C shares), Intel, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.