HP VARs To New CEO Whitman: Consistent Channel Messaging, Please


Hewlett-Packard solution providers are willing to overlook Margaret "Meg" Whitman's lack of channel experience as she steps up to run the company as its new president and CEO, but they are very clear about what she needs to do to restore some of the channel luster HP has lost in the last year.

HP on Thursday fired Leo Apotheker after his 11-month run as president and CEO, and replaced him with Whitman, who prior to the appointment was most well-known for building eBay into the star of the on-line auction business during her 10-year tenure as that company's former president and CEO.

Solution providers' initial reaction to the hiring of Whitman was generally positive, with several HP partners calling her a brilliant executive who can be expected to make the right decisions for HP despite her lack of channel and enterprise experience.

However, many of those same partners said the big test for Whitman will be how she addresses HP's recent inconsistent messages to customers as a whole and the needs of the channel in particular.

The appointment of Whitman as president and CEO of HP is great news, said Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategy officer at Nth Generation, a San Diego-based solution provider and long-term HP partner.

"I think HP needs decisive leadership now," Baldwin said. "Meg had a track record of doing big things at eBay. I hope she continues that record at HP."

Baldwin said that he is not concerned about Whitman's previous focus on the consumer market and lack of experience in the channel.

"The message is loud and clear: HP's success has been as a channel company," he said. "She's smart, and she's going to take HP in that direction. Leo was taking it in the opposite direction. But it will take some time to change directions."

One solution provider, who requested anonymity, said that HP's fortunes can only move forward under Whitman, as long as she focuses on the basics.

"Up's the only way it can go. I anticipate a much more 'Hurdian' style from Whitman," the solution provider said, referring to former HP President and CEO Mark Hurd. "I think she'll get back to basics from the salesmanship side. It will work well as long as she doesn't say anything that hurts HP. If she says nothing at all, things will be better."

Next: Asking Whitman To Hear Out The Partner Community