With the TouchPad sitting atop the IT Industry scrap heap, and the WebOS situation still unresolved, now might seem an odd time for Hewlett-Packard to be talking about why channel partners should develop mobility practices.
But HP, which last week decided not to sell or spin off its Personal Systems Group, is re-aligning its channel partners around the coming wave of Windows 8 tablets, even as the company continues to try to find a role for WebOS. HP is making its case by explaining how partners with mobility skills will be able to differentiate themselves from the pack.
"It's the same message we've always given: That mobility practices should be developed [by] our partners so that they can deploy mobile products with application layers and technology interfaces specific to their customers. That’s the value added they can bring," Stephen DiFranco, PSG senior vice president and general manager, said in an interview late last week.
Todd Bradley, executive vice president of the Personal Systems Group, acknowledges that HP still has some things to figure out when it comes to tablets, but he also suggests that the needs of business customers are continually evolving, and that no one has it quite figured out just yet.
"What is the appropriate tablet product for the channel to sell to the enterprise? I think there's still an enormous amount of work to be done on that," Bradley said in the same interview.
If this sounds familiar, it should: At HP's Americas Partner Conference in March, HP executives encouraged partners to get serious about adding application development, mobility virtualization and mobility management expertise. HP executives described the mobility space as a marathon as opposed to a sprint, with the implication that HP still has plenty of time to catch up to market leaders.
HP executives at APC also spoke of planned mobility-specific HP PartnerONE program benefits, including market development funds, volume programs, big deal registration and practice development, and of an Elite mobility program that would offer substantial benefits to VARs with high end skills.
Of course, HP's decision in August to pull the plug on the TouchPad and explore options for WebOS put the kibosh on these plans. And some HP partners are still finding themselves doing damage control as a result of HP's abrupt about-face on tablets.
"This has been a very trying time. Customers hear about the turmoil and drama, and that's reflected upon us," said Cohen Barnes, president and CEO of TBC Net, a Sycamore, Ill.-based solution provider. "If we go through training and certification and invest in a product, we need to know it's going to be something that will be there in the future."
Next: HP's Windows 8 Tablet Future