HP: Committed to Small Business Customers, SMB Partners?
As Hewlett-Packard attempts to exit the PC market, some critics wonder if HP remains committed to small business customers and SMB channel partners. The VAR Guy’s answer: Yes, HP absolutely remains committed to SMB. But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead for HP’s SMB channel pros. Here’s why.
CEO Leo Apotheker is striving to reshape HP in multiple ways — killing WebOS hardware including TouchPad tablets; potentially selling the PC division; acquiring Autonomy Corp. for $10 billion, and pushing hard into enterprise software and services. By potentially exiting the PC market (here’s a look at potential buyers), HP has triggered some concerns that the company will become less committed to SMB partners and customers.
But take a closer look at HP’s official statement. Among other things it says HP will:
“Sharpen HP’s focus on its strategic priorities of cloud, solutions and software with an emphasis on enterprise, commercial and government markets.”
Commercial markets? That’s HP calling out to the SMB crowd, assuring partners and customers that they remain strategic to HP’s long-term business strategy.
Also of note: HP’s ProLiant server business is part of HP’s ESSN Group (Enterprise Servers, Storage, Networking). The ESSN Group is not up for sale. Only HP’s PC division — laptops and desktops — is up for sale. Those HP PCs are part of the Personal Systems Group. So HP’s decision to sell the PC business but hold onto servers echo’s IBM old strategy, wherein IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo.
The bottom line: HP says it remains committed to SMB channel pros and customers. And there are plenty of HP solutions that SMB partners can promote — printers, networking, storage, servers, etc. And yes, those HP partners can keep on selling PCs — regardless of who ultimately acquires that business.
Still, The VAR Guy believes HP’s SMB partners are at risk in some ways. HP has stated that it may take 12 to 18 months to sell its PC business. And even at the end of that 18-month window, HP isn’t guaranteeing that a sale will actually occur. Wall Street despises long-term uncertainty, and HP shares are down about 20 percent (Aug. 19) at least partner because HP doesn’t have a clear answer for its PC business.
Channel partners should be equally concerned. Imagine spending the next 18 months answering customer questions about HP’s PC division:
- “Who owns it?”
- “Who’s buying it?”
- “Why should I buy HP PCs when that division is up for sale.”
Smooth sailing ahead? Absolutely not. Publicly, HP says it’s committed to the commercial market. But HP needs to back up those words with clear, rapid actions: Sell or spin off the PC division far faster than your original 18-month projection. Without clarity from HP, partners could potentially suffer.