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HP Gold Not For All

Ingram Micro's VentureTech Network of SMB-focused solution providers will not receive automatic Gold status under Hewlett-Packard's new PartnerOne program, said an HP channel executive.

"Legally, I can't unilaterally make [the VTN members all Gold," said Kevin Gilroy, vice president and general manager of HP's North America commercial channels, adding that HP's lawyers have advised him against offering separate reseller groups special status. "When you segment partners at different benefits, you have to have an objective way of making those criteria decisions. You cannot make those decisions subjectively."

VTN members recently asked Gilroy if HP could waive what many say are prohibitive requirements that will leave many SMB solution providers unable to achieve the vendor's PartnerOne Gold status.

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Ingram's Stegner says the move could result in an SMB share shift.

Bob Stegner, Ingram Micro's vice president of U.S. marketing and channel development, who has been representing VTN members on the issue, said that despite repeated phone calls, HP never followed up.

"I'm disappointed," Stegner said. "This is something the members requested because a lot of them were great HP and Compaq partners, and now, under the new program, they are forced into a relationship that jeopardizes their business."

Some solution providers, particularly smaller operations in secondary markets, said the requirements to achieve Gold status,$10 million in sales of HP products or five certified HP engineers, as well as two technical certifications,are beyond their reach. Many, including the VTN members, will be lumped into the Business Partner level, which doesn't provide the rebates, marketing funds and support that Gold partners receive.

"This allows the large integrators and direct marketers to move into those areas and take business away from the local reseller in tertiary markets," Stegner said. The irony is that the 373 VTN members represent $2.5 billion in buying power, he said.

While some VTN members said they support HP's strategy, others said it alienates the vendor's core SMB partners.

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Ken Klika, a network engineering manager at BCG Systems, an Akron, Ohio-based VTN member, said he plans to shift his business to IBM. "IBM is more channel-friendly," Klika said. "For HP to say we're no longer important business partners because we don't have $10 million in sales downplays our role as a trusted partner."

Gilroy said HP plans to offer special programs to VTN members to help them achieve Rising Star status, which includes many of the perks of the Gold level without the heavy commitment.

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