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Apotheker's inability to establish strong partner ties took its toll in HP's sales trenches, according to Haffar. "When they lost focus on us, we lost focus on them," he said. "They were a much more focused strategic partner for us before Apotheker, and they lost a lot of talent in our region to competitors as a result. Replacing that talent is going to take a long time."
Mont Phelps, CEO of NWN, a fast-growing HP partner headquartered in Waltham, Mass., said Apotheker’s reign has resulted in damage to the relationship HP has with its channel partners.
"I congratulate the board for being decisive and making the change," Phelps said. "The events of the last year have strained HP's relationship with the channel and it is important that one of the new CEO's top priorities is to rebuild that trust and engagement with partners. HP has got to get beyond this and focus on communication and trust and building the business."
Many HP partners were puzzled -- and in some cases, disappointed -- when HP hired Apotheker last September. Some openly questioned whether Apotheker would maintain Hurd's laser focus on the channel, noting that he hadn't distinguished himself as a channel-savvy leader during his 20 year career at SAP.
In fact, SAP's hybrid direct-indirect sales model was a major source of frustration under Apotheker's leadership at the software company, several SAP partners told CRN last year. "Under his reign, I don't think SAP was super-partner friendly," said one solution provider.
Questions about Apotheker's ability to effectively lead HP have been swirling since the company’s Discover conference in June, according to an executive with one of HP's enterprise partners. "He was on stage at Discover with a TouchPad, touting the ability for HP to integrate how people use technology personally and professionally. And now, that seems to be off the table," said the source, who requested anonymity.
Indeed, HP's decision to kill the TouchPad just six weeks after its launch sent shockwaves through the channel. HP had been aggressively positioning the tablet, and WebOS, as major services drivers for partners, and many VARs had made the decision to invest in building mobility practices.
But HP's decision to explore a spin-off or sale of PSG came as an even bigger surprise, particularly for longtime partners.
"He presided over some of the biggest blunders I have ever seen. If you tried to destroy value in a company you couldn't do it as fast as he did," said another top HP partner, who requested anonymity.
However, the partner said he's heartened that HP's board has finally come to its senses. "I was starting to wonder if the board knew what was happening in the field," the source said. "I'm glad they finally manned up and made the decision to get rid of him instead of digging the company deeper and deeper into a hole."
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