HP Channel Chief: Distributors Now Taking TouchPad Pre-Orders

Stephen DiFranco, Hewlett Packard vice president and general manager, Solution Partners Organization - Americas, spoke with CRN about the company's commercial sales and distribution strategy for the company's eagerly anticipated WebOS based TouchPad which is scheduled to be released on July 1.

DiFranco, whose SPO organization has waged an aggressive campaign to get partners to build mobility practices with WebOS and the TouchPad, said HP's commercial distribution partners (Ingram Micro, Synnex, D&H Distributing and Tech Data) began taking solution provider pre-orders for the TouchPad this week. Below are excerpts from the question and answer session with DiFranco.

When will the TouchPad be available from HP distributors?

The distributors have placed their orders with HP. We enabled them to begin accepting pre-orders from VARs on June 19. We haven't made any changes to our planned announced availability dates (July 1) for the product in the United States. Canada will be shortly after.

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Will distributors lag in terms of product availability versus retailers carrying the same product?

We are allocating delivery of units into our distributors and Tier 1 partners as well as retailers to support the release date of July 1.

Talk about availability from commercial direct market companies like CDW?

CDW, PC Connection, PC Mall, Zones and Insight will all have availability of the product as well. In fact, many began taking pre-orders on June 19 as well.

Every one of the major DRCs (Direct Market Companies) either have or soon will have their Web sites up and actively taking pre-orders.

The distributors have all purchased some mix of versions of the commercial SKUs (16GB and 32GB memory units). They will have slightly different mixes based on what they thought their customers needed. Canada will be slightly behind the U.S.

We are on track. Distributors are excited. And our VARs are excited.

Talk about the commercial channel program to help VARs sell TouchPad?

We have put together a program for our distributors to allow them to enable their VARs to afford demo units and sample units they can give to their customers for evaluations. One of our objectives is to get a lot of evaluation units out there. We worked with the PartnerOne team on a program that our distributors and VARs could leverage.

What is the difference between the consumer TouchPad units and the commercial TouchPad units?

There is no difference in the product. It will ship in the same box and have the same configuration with a commercial part number. The business model around the commercial SKUs will allow us to sell them through commercial channels. Distributors can service them through our commercial services organizations which is what our VARs use.

In an attempt to enable a more commercial buying and selling and service experience, we have created SKUs that can be serviced through the commercial service teams, supported through PartnerOne funding dollars and executed and sold through distributors.

The product itself is no different. This ensures a commercial business model that our commercial VARs could leverage. That is an attempt to provide the service that the VARs asked us for. VARs needed a way of not just buying it through distribution, but more importantly servicing it through a commercial service model.

The other difference is the commercial SKU will have Citrix Receiver (a light weight software client for desktop and application virtualization on a mobile device) on it.

You can download the same apps for both units (commercial and consumer). There is no prohibition on any apps. You can put commercial apps on the consumer unit. You can put consumer apps on the commercial unit. There is no difference in the OS. The OS is exactly the same. The hardware is exactly the same. The warranty itself is the same.

Next: What About VMware?

Talk about the Citrix Receiver functionality?

We did that so a commercial customer can click on that and it will allow them if they are a Citrix environment to connect to that Citrix environment. If they are not on a Citrix environment, they can contact Citrix and Citrix will set them up with a demo environment so they will connect to a Citrix demo site.

We did that so you could get a sense of what that experience would be like having commercial apps show up on the device. For now that is the one that we put on it. We did that as an accomodiation for VARs and customers.

Why didn't you put VMware client virtualization on the device?

VMware will not have an app at the time of launch. But we are in active discussion with VMware and many others.

Is there any kind of commercial agreement where you get a license fee from Citrix?

We do not have a cross sales agreement with Citrix on this product.

Talk about the plan around the commercial TouchPad SKUs.

Our objective was to make sure there was a commercial route to market and a commercial service model for it.

I am quite sure that smaller VARs may well access consumer channels as they do today. The consumerization of commercial is ongoing. Lots of small companies buy from consumer outlets. There are lots of VARs who tell their customers to go online buy it here or there and they'll install it. Their value proposition is in the installation and servicing not on the products themselves.

There are lots of VARs who sell this stuff and what they want to do is make sure they have the advantages that commercial brings them which is to leverage their overall distributor relationship.

Next: Will VARs Be Able To Sell Care Pack For TouchPad? Will VARs be able to sell Care Pack services around this and will the product be covered under HP's Penetration Rate Index (PRI)?

VARs will be able to sell Care Pack services. We will have a one-year ADP option, two-year advance exchange and a two-year advance exchange with ADP. This will be part of the PRI solution.

So will VARs be able to sell an HP SKUed Service Pack on day one for TouchPad from commercial VARs?

The service company will have that shortly after the launch of the new product. Usually it takes between three to six months.

Talk about the commercial sales opportunity for TouchPad?

We think there is a lot of money to be made as VARs go into companies and start to deal with mobility strategies, connectivity strategies and virtualized mobile clients. Obviously the money around mobile virtual client strategies has a lot to do with virtualizing mobile devices with a server solution and products from companies like Microsoft, VMware and Citrix. We think the issues around networking and wireless connectivity involve security layers which is why we purchased a security company.

Obviously there is a lot of money to be made in services, software and solutions. That is where the real value is. TouchPad enables connectivity. Connectivity is where there is profitability. That is why we want people to start building Mobility Elite practices. It is really all about Mobile connectivity.

What are you doing in terms of channel tools and enablement for the commercial solution provider that differentiates HP from Apple, Samsung and other Tablet providers?

None of those companies have the rest of the portfolio. None of those companies have servers and storage and wireless and connectivity solutions. None of those companies have security software. None of those companies have storage technologies like 3Par. One of the biggest differentiators is that we have all the other pieces of the ecosystem that go around this idea of making a company more mobile.

We have brought distributors in the United States and Canada for them to launch TouchPad by bringing in units, be able to provide downstream channel margin, and provide programs that enable thigns like demo and sample units. We have good product that not only works the way our customers do, but also works the way IT requires it to. WebOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud connected, and scalable -- the foundation of a connected portfolio of devices, apps and services meant to address a new generation of personal and professional needs.

We have a solid program structure. We have a commercial service solution for that product which was requested. And we are coming out later this year actually with a Mobility Elite model so we will start to bring downstream PartnerOne dollars. So as partners start to build out that Mobility practice they will be able to become Mobility Elite and therefore be able to monetize that practice through the PartnerOne program.