HP: DiFranco Promoted, Channel Chief Search Underway

DiFranco will continue to oversee the channel business until a new vice president and general manager of the $120-billion-behemoth's Solution Partners Organization- Americas is named. The yet-to-be-named channel chief will report to DiFranco, who took the job overseeing the biggest and broadest channel in the information technology business 16 months ago.

DiFranco, who will report to Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's $41 billion Personal Systems Group, will be taking the post vacated by Stephen DeWitt, who has been named senior vice president and general manager of HP's new WebOS global business unit.

Jon Rubinstein, the technology visionary who was the driving force behind the WebOS based HP TouchPad tablet, will assume a product innovation role within the Personal Systems Group.

HP solution providers said the executive changes lay the groundwork for HP to mount a full court press in its bid to make its WebOS-based TouchPad the dominant product in a new world of mobile devices, cloud and desktop virtualization.

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"Todd Bradley is stepping up and building a high-powered organization around WebOS," said Mont Phelps, the CEO of NWN, a $250-million HP enterprise partner headquartered in Waltham, Mass that is betting on WebOS with a custom application development group. "WebOS is not just a passing fad. HP is putting its money where its mouth is.

"The mobility and tablet opportunity is huge," said Phelps, who expects mobility-based solutions and infrastructure to account for as much of 25 percent of his business in two years. "This positions HP to take advantage of that mobility opportunity. Clearly it is a bold move putting some very high level. competent folks in place to drive the WebOS business. This is going to be good for NWN and anyone else that is looking to participate in the mobility/tablet market."

Phelps said both DeWitt and DiFranco deserve congratulations for a job well done. "It's important that HP is putting a channel savvy, channel friendly manager in that PSG role," he said. "It should bode well for partners looking to build a business around HP's WebOS TouchPad."

As for filling the channel post, Phelps said it is critical that HP find someone that can act as an advocate and "lightning rod" for partners throughout the entire company. "The channel job is not just a PSG job, it cuts across the entire company," noted Phelps. "You'd like to think they are developing the talents and resources necessary to fill that job inside the company.

Bob Venero, the CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y. HP enterprise partner, said he sees DiFranco's promotion as a "great opportunity for us to tighter align with the strategies and thought leadership that DiFranco has shown in leading the channel at HP.

"I think just like the world was ready for Apple's iOS operating system which took the market by storm, WebOS has an opportunity to do the same thing and gain market share from the convoluted Androis OS," said Venero. "These HP changes are a great thing for the channel and all partners who play in mobility, personal systems and client virtualization, which is one of the fastest growing markets we are seeing."

Venero said DiFranco's replacement will have big shoes to fill. "They have to look for somebody who is as seasoned and dedicated to the channel as Stephen DiFranco," he said.

Venero said his HP business is up about 15 percent this year. "These moves should help exponentially continue that pattern," he said.