Hello Again: Can We Talk About HP?

Hello Again: Can We Talk About HP?

Well, it’s not quite the same as Mohammad Ali’s return to the ring, but it is a return nonetheless. I have been involved in the channel on and off for the past 22-plus years, and just when I think I’ve escaped, they pull me back in. The VAR Guy can be quite persuasive, especially after a glass of the local Applebee’s finest red wine swill.

So I’m back. This blog kicks off what will be a weekly contribution to The VAR Guy’s arsenal of channel experts, dignitaries and blowhards. On any given week I will be any of these. I will share with you my thoughts on the most pressing issues facing today’s solution providers or just give my opinion, which you may or may not agree with. There are no rules and nothing is off limits.

My goal is to be informative and to hopefully provide you with insight, rumors and innuendos that will help you do your job better. And if that doesn’t work, it should at least be entertaining. I also reserve the right to change my opinion whenever I want without warning.

I’m back … and there is so much to talk about.

Challenging Times

Let’s start with HP’s split personality.

Now that we've gotten the formalities out of the way, I feel it is my duty to weigh in on the current situation at HP and its reorganization and flip-flopping on the future of its PC and printing businesses. I know, I know, this topic has been written about nearly to death, but I cannot be considered a channel expert and won’t show up on Google search unless I address this issue. So bear with me.

Brief recap: Under the leadership of the elusive Leo Apotheker, HP in August 2011 said it was mulling an exit from the PC business and killing its TouchPad tablet as well as its webOS smartphone line. The future of the company was to be in services and software. While most solution providers couldn’t really argue with this move, as they themselves basically made the switch to services away from pure hardware, it did isolate VARs that used HP PCs to gain entry into some accounts and then expanded that business with customized services.

Then barely two months later in October, new HP CEO Meg Whitman reversed Apotheker’s move and stood by HP’s PC business. She basically made the argument that it’s mainly a cost issue and it would cost more to get out of the business than to actually run it. It also didn’t go unnoticed that HP was the PC shipment leader at that time, according to IDC reports. You can decide what the real motive is.

Fast forward to 2012. HP earlier this year unveiled a sweeping restructuring unifying its PC and printer divisions. Its reasoning is that PC and printer sales are tied strongly together from the consumer to the enterprise. The reality, however, is in many cases it’s not true. In my experience “restructuring” equates to “efficiencies” and “cost-cutting” plain and simple, no matter how you slice it. This is not a strategic move. It’s a balance sheet move.

On the Right Track?

So the real question is: What does all this hoopla mean to the channel? After all, HP is throwing tons of resources, money, support and training around its PartnerONE cloud specialization and collaboration programs and its ServiceONE offerings. And this is good. However, this gets overshadowed by the revolving door of CEOs and changes in product development and support. Uncertainty is bad business. As a result, channel partners don’t fully trust the vendor. Solution providers need to know their vendor partners and their products will be around for the long haul, and HP’s recent reorganization moves explaining its strategy isn’t proving to be all that convincing.

Knock em alive.

--Elliot Markowitz
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