HP’s earnings this afternoon will determine if Whitman is on right course

Hewlett-Packard will report earnings today for the first quarter since Meg Whitman took over as chief executive of the technology industry giant in September.

Whitman wasn’t CEO for the entire quarter ended Oct. 31, so she won’t be entirely responsible for the company’s earnings performance. Leo Apotheker preceded Whitman in the top job but he was fired in September as the board lost confidence in his ability to communicate HP’s strategy. Analysts expect HP to post non-GAAP adjusted earnings of $1.16 a share on revenue of $32.2 billion, compared to $1.33 a share and revenue of $33.3 billion a year ago.

Since taking over, Whitman reversed Apotheker’s plan to sell or spin out the personal computer division. Whitman is expected to offer some guidance for HP’s expected performance in the coming fiscal year.

For the fiscal year 2012, analysts expected earnings of $4.56 a share on revenue of $127 billion in revenue. Such a performance would still make HP the tech industry’s largest revenue producer. But the stock doesn’t reflect that.

HP’s market capitalization is a weak $54 billion these days. By comparison Apple is worth $343.3 billion, Intel is worth $119.7 billion, and Microsoft is worth $210.1 billion.