"E.D.S. is so essential to H.P.ís guidance," said Richard Kugele, an analyst with Needham & Company.
But analysts continue to cast a skeptical eye on Dell. A consensus of industry analysts projects Dell will report net income of 32 cents a share, in contrast to 34 cents last year. Mr. Kugele said the economy was eroding so quickly that Dell might well not meet those estimates.
Dell has taken steps to revive its slowing PC business. It has pushed into retail marketing, helping raise its market share in the United States; lowered costs through outsourced manufacturing; and paid closer attention to consumer tastes, Mr. Kugele said.
But Dell relies more heavily on the personal computer business than Hewlett-Packard. And that is a business under heavy pressure. Mr. Sacconaghi projects that unit shipments of PCs will grow 4.9 percent in 2009, but revenue will fall 2 percent during that period.
And Dell's operating margins of about 5 percent are half of what they were in the late 1990s.
"Dell is doing the right things," Mr. Kugele said. But given the economic environment, Dell's results are not likely to offer the investor-pleasing surprise of Hewlett-Packard's. "It's going to be a very depressing, sloppy earnings call."