Partners Like HP Print 2.0 Vision, But Clamor For Specifics

"The feedback I'm going to give them is 'loved the event, it was great to see and meet people, but we could have used more specifics," said one VAR from South Africa who asked for anonymity because of the critical tone of his remarks. "We would have liked to see more specifics and more discussion about specific products."

"I want to know how we're going to monetize this," said David Cote, director of business development for GreenPages Technology Solutions in Kittery, Maine. "I think there weren't more specifics because they don't exist yet. It's still evolving."

HP's Print 2.0 vision -- backed by a new $300 million online and offline marketing campaign -- focuses on enabling easy, intuitive printing experiences and on capturing growth from emerging demand generators like the Web. As John Solomon, HP's vice president of the Imaging and Printing Group (IPG)'s consumer business, put it in his presentation to HP's gathered partners: "Hardware or just machine growth isn't really going to be an engine for your business. It's the growth in pages."

HP is developing extensive marketing materials to back its Print 2.0 push and will make those available to partners through various co-marketing programs. But beyond the marketing campaign, HP offered few particulars about what its Print 2.0 campaign will entail for channel partners. One of the few concrete changes tied to the campaign is the introduction of new certification programs, which will be offered to Platinum and Gold partners. Those programs will be worked out and discussed in more detail over the coming months, according to HP Vice President Scott Tuthill, who oversees IPG SMB unit.

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HP is working on ways to "formalize" its go-to-market plans with partners who can align with HP's three-pronged customer approach, which calls for "optimizing infrastructure," "managing the environment," and "transforming workflow and solutions," Tuthill said.

"We need to have partners who can sell with us, and not only sell, but deliver this whole vision," he said. "We're going to invest more in you, and we're going to ask for more of a commitment from you."

The plans for added certifications drew mixed reviews from resellers. Certifications are always expensive and a drain on resources, several grumbled, while also conceding that they can make a real difference in winning customer business. Certifications unlock access to exclusive products and can help resellers set themselves apart from the competition, one VAR said.

As part of its growth strategy, HP has been expanding into areas of the printing space where it traditionally didn't compete, like copiers and the market for multifunction devices combining scanner, fax, printer and copier capabilities. VARs who focus on that market said HP is gaining traction but still has kinks to work out.

4 Office Automation, based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, is a VAR firm in the midst of the kind of services expansion HP evangelizes: once focused entirely on the copier market, 4 Office has expanded into the broader printing and services field. It began working with HP as a reseller of HP's multifunction devices, but has run into snags with HP's pricing model. Copiers are traditionally priced on usage, with solution providers able to offer exact quotes on the per-page cost of operating them, but HP hasn't yet worked out that level of granularity throughout its multifunction printer line, said Clive Lee, a sales manager for 4 Office Automation.

"On Edgeline printers, they said the printer heads were good for life -- then, months later, said oops, they're not good for life," Lee said. "We have to work that into our pricing model."

But Lee thinks HP will eventually get itself up to speed: "They're working hard," he said, noting HP's focus on keeping itself at the printing market's vanguard.

GreenPages' Cote also came away from HP's event pleased by the company's drive and strategy, even as he waits for more concrete details about how it will enhance his business.

"If anyone is going to solve the Web printability problem, it's going to take an HP," Cote said.