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Hewlett-Packard's proposed $2.7 billion acquisition of 3Com has some longtime channel partners on edge. It also has a number of VARs excited about the possibilities for both HP and 3Com, especially those who'd agree with HP senior vice president Marius Haas' assessment that rival Cisco has a "proprietary stack of hardware" that needs to be challenged.
On a Webinar discussing the pending acquisition Wednesday, 3Com Chief Operating Officer and President Ron Sege said that 3Com would take the necessary steps to integrate 3Com's channels with HP's and that the move would end up "great for partners."
Channelweb.com talked with Sege Friday in hopes of expanding his answers a bit. We also got an earful on what Sege -- who is responsible for all of 3Com's day-to-day operations outside of China -- sees driving networking and data center convergence in 2010.
In talking with a number of 3Com solution providers who are excited about the deal, one thing in particular that stood out was that no one worried about cultural differences slowing up the integration of the two companies. That's pretty rare in tech M&A. If you agree that 3Com and HP are culturally compatible, why do you suppose that is?
First of all, that's encouraging to hear. I think it's clear we're both driven by customers, partners and market opportunities and we've been good at listening to customers -- all of the things good cultures are built around. We did grow up, 3Com and HP, in the same era, and we tend to focus on open standards, lower cost approaches and pushing the envelope. We have a long heritage of commonality in terms of philosophy and responding to our customer bases.
You mentioned on the Webinar that the acquisition, should it make it through all the necessary hurdles, would end up great for channel partners. Can you comment more on why that's going to be?
Not really, we can't say very much right now, obviously. As we said on the Webinar, though, we are so undercovered in terms of our ability to cover so much market opportunity out there. The resources this combination will bring to bear will great a net positive effect for customers and the channel alike, especially for those with a willingness to invest and grow.
3Com's voice and OfficeConnect portfolios don't get the same attention as H3C, NBX and a lot of the more data center-oriented stuff. These could certainly help HP, however, and many solution providers we've talked to in the past few days went out of their way to point that out. Can you explain how?
SMB in general remains critically important to both companies. I'll speak to the voice side, although OfficeConnect is of course important. Voice is an increasingly important application for our customers. We've been investing in voice since [CEO] Bob [Mao] and I joined the company, and in China, we've invested in software that we're just in the process of coming out with. It's in appliance form, and we're just about to launch that product in China. VoIP is a nascent, potentially exploding market over there.
We're going to continue to invest in our voice business and be sure it's tightly integrated with our switching and routing business. We've historically partnered with some more value-added call center applications, and HP not long ago continued to expand its relationship with Microsoft that includes value-added services in this area. Voice is important to them, and us. I'll leave you to conclude the ways it can work from here.
3Com and HP channel partners obviously want to hear about product roadmaps and also how the channels will be blended. What's your message to them?
First and foremost we can't really talk about it, particularly at these very early stages of the regulatory approval process. But I'll say what we did say publicly, and and that's growing sales coverage, growing demand and investing products that sell 100 percent through partners. You'll see that commitment stay.