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Kristin Rogers, executive vice president of sales and marketing at PC Mall, a Torrance, Calif.-based direct marketer of products from HP, Apple, IBM, Lenovo and Microsoft, says HP has focused on the TouchPad tablet as more than just a point product, but an offering that channel partners can wrap into any number of vertically focused technology solutions.
"HP sees this as a significant opportunity for businesses, and I respect the fact that they're not just treating it as a cool product," said Rogers. "They're getting the channel to recognize that this is really a platform, much more than just a cool device."
Moyer acknowledges that Apple has a big head start in tablets but says it's still early days in the space. HP executives have expressed similar sentiments recently: At APC, Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president of HP's Americas Solution Partners Organization, blasted Apple for ignoring its channel partners. Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group, likened the looming tablet competition to a marathon as opposed to a sprint.
In addition to the WebOS feature set, HP sees its channel marketing and distribution strength as factors that can give it a leg up on Apple and other competitors. HP will market the TouchPad tablet as a device that fits neatly into the enterprise IT stack and functions as just another device on the network. PC Mall's Rogers says this is a shrewd approach that leverages one of HP's strengths.
"HP has a substantial and competent channel and that's an advantage," Rogers said. "HP has identified significant vertical market opportunity and they know how to build a channel that totally gets this opportunity."
Starting this summer, HP partners that sell WebOS solutions will receive new HP PartnerONE program benefits, including market development funds, volume programs, deal registration and technology practice development. In November, HP will introduce an Elite mobility program offering that will provide more substantial benefits for partners that meet more stringent mobility practice requirements.
"We are going to help our partners develop mobility practices that include services like app development, mobility virtualization and mobility management," Stephen DiFranco, vice president and general manager of HP's Americas Solution Partners Organization, said at APC.
Will these incentives be enough for HP to build a critical mass of WebOS developers? One problem is that HP's "early days" argument works both ways: Without enough apps, WebOS devices' appeal will remain limited to the same small segment of the market that thought the Palm Pre was the bee's knees. HP will probably need more partners to invest in WebOS development than it does right now for WebOS to generate significant momentum.
Next: HP's Challenges With WebOS