Before Apotheker, Hurd won praise for cutting costs during his five-year reign at HP, but Marshall believes HP was too slow to respond to the mobile computing, cloud computing and Big Data craze that began to unfold under Hurd's watch. HP also started its costly shopping spree while Hurd was CEO.
How much further will HP and Dell fall before they hit bottom?
HP's revenue has declined in each of the past four quarters, compared with the same period a year earlier, and analysts expect the trend to extend into next year. The most pessimistic scenarios envision HP's annual revenue falling from about $120 billion this year to $90 billion toward the end of this decade.
The latest projections for PC sales also paint a grim picture. The research firm IDC now predicts PC shipments this year will increase by less than 1 percent, down from its earlier forecast of 5 percent.
Whitman is determined to offset the crumbling revenue by trimming expenses. She already is trying to lower annual costs by $3.5 billion during the next two years, mostly by eliminating 27,000 jobs, or 8 percent of HP's workforce.
Marshall expects Whitman's austerity campaign to enable HP to maintain its annual earnings at about $4 per share, excluding accounting charges, for the foreseeable future.
If HP can do that, Marshall believes the stock will turn out to be a bargain investment, even though he isn't expecting the business to grow during the next few years. The shares dropped 37 cents Monday to finish at $17.21, HP's lowest closing price in eight years.
One of the main reasons that Marshall still likes HP's stock at this price is because of the company's quarterly dividend of 13.2 cents per share. That translates into a dividend yield of about 3 percent, an attractive return during these times of puny interest rates.
Dell's stock looks less attractive, partly because its earnings appear to still be dropping. The company, which is based in Round Rock, Texas, signaled its weakness last week, when it lowered its earnings projection for the current fiscal year by 20 percent.
Dell executives also indicated that the company is unlikely to get a sales lift from the Oct. 26 release of Microsoft Corp.'s much-anticipated makeover of its Windows operating system. That's because Dell focuses on selling PCs to companies, which typically take a long time before they decide to switch from one version of Windows to the next generation.
Dell shares slipped to a new three-year low of $11.10 in Monday trading before closing at $11.12, down 14 cents.
As PC sales languish, both HP and Dell are likely to spend more on cloud computing, data storage and technology consulting.
Although those look like prudent bets now, HP and Dell probably should be spending more money trying to develop products and services that turn into "the next new thing" in three or four years, said Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan law and business professor who has been tracking the troubles of both companies.
"It's like they are both standing on the dock watching boats that have already sailed," Gordon said. "They are going to have to swim very fast just to have chance to climb back on one of the boats."