HP's 3Com deal could prove to be CEO Mark Hurd's ultimate test

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd has won Wall Street accolades for turning around the once-moribund company in just a few short years. Hurd expertly cut back in slow-growing units while priming faster-growing businesses for higher performance. He pulled off a string of acquisitions aimed at broadening HP's ability to deliver consulting services, and he plugged holes in its product lineup.

Hurd also took HP's sprawling bureaucracy and turned it into a transparent cash machine with a cutting-edge infrastructure that let him see day-to-day sales trends for every unit. In other words, Hurd made HP function a lot more like Cisco Systems (CSCO), the giant network equipment maker that has been a crucial HP partner for over a decade.