HP VP: Deal For HP To Resell Microsoft Surface Pro Is Not Slap In Face To Channel

Hewlett-Packard Vice President Mike Nash on Tuesday said the No. 1 U.S. PC maker's decision to resell Microsoft's Surface Pro is not a slight to HP channel partners.

"This is absolutely not a slap in the face to our channel," said Nash, who oversees product management for HP's Consumer PC and global business unit for HP's printing and personal systems group, in an interview with CRN. "We love our channel. Our channel is critical to our business. Frankly, selling HP devices, obviously, is the core of our strategy. The fact that we are making this additional offering available should not distract from that. It only makes us more customer-centric."

Nash's comments came after HP and Dell stunned solution providers Tuesday by announcing that they will resell Microsoft Surface Pro devices, putting them in direct competition with the channel.

[Related: Dell, HP To Resell Microsoft Surface Pro, Partners Stunned By Direct Sales Assault]

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Nash said HP's PC group's 2,000-strong direct sales force will now have the option to resell Surface Pro. The Microsoft device will not be available from HP.com, he said.

Nash would not comment on the direct sales force compensation for reselling Surface Pro versus HP's own 2-in-1 mobile devices. "At the end of the day, it is as much about the service and support as it is selling the product," he said. "If the customer wants to buy a [Surface Pro] device from HP, they have the option."

Nash said the HP Microsoft Surface Pro reseller agreement is in direct response to customer demand. "To deploy Windows 10 successfully in the enterprise, making Surface Pro 3 part of that offering is something customers want," he said. "As you obsess on the customer, you may do things that may not seem obvious. But if the customer wants it, it is our job is to make sure they are successful."

The HP deal is part of a Microsoft "Surface Enterprise Initiative" aimed at driving Windows 10 into large enterprise accounts. As part of the deal, HP said it plans to deliver a new set of HP Care Packs designed specifically to help customers plan, configure, deploy and manage Windows 10 in enterprise environments. Furthermore, HP said it plans to offer Windows 10 mobility workflow transformation tools and services that will be available next year.

Nash stressed that the Surface Pro will simply be a part of the HP direct sales force's enterprise portfolio. "It is not like their No. 1 job is to go sell Surface Pro," he said. "It will be in their portfolio."

Solution providers Tuesday blasted the deal as a direct sales assault that will at some point put HP and Dell into competition with them in the sales trenches.

"This creates competition between channel partners and the direct sales forces of both HP and Dell," said the CEO for a large national enterprise partner who works with all three vendors and already resells Surface Pro. "It is especially troublesome for resellers that already sell Surface Pro. This is going to put us in competition with the HP and Dell direct sales force."

As to just what kind of enterprise customer demand there is for Surface Pro, the CEO said: "We have some customers asking for Surface Pro. There is no question about that. But it is less than 5 percent."

Nash, a former 19-year Microsoft veteran who once was responsible for overseeing Windows platform strategy, said that the most important aspect of the Microsoft HP Enterprise initiative is to make sure that enterprise customers are ready for Windows 10.

"For customers that want to have some subset of devices that are running Surface Pro 3, helping them to deploy that, helping them to manage that is a key thing that we want to do," he said. "If part of that is it is easier for them to buy it from us versus elsewhere, we want to make sure we are able to do that as well. As the largest OEM in the commercial space it is our job to make sure we are helping customers be successful. That is how we are successful. Their success is our success."