5 Companies That Came To Win This Week

HP Overhauls Channel Program

Hewlett-Packard channel partners have gone through a lot of angst in recent years as the company seemingly lost its way. While questions remain about HP's strategic direction, the company took some major steps this week to repair its relationship with its solution provider partners.

On a more nuts-and-bolts level, HP unveiled a major overhaul for the PartnerOne channel program at the company's Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas this week. Topping the list of changes was a simplified "pay for performance" program that allows partners to qualify for incentives from the very first sales, dropping a requirement that partners hit 80 percent of their sales target before qualifying.

But more importantly partners heard directly from CEO Meg Whitman, who promised that partners would make more money with HP than with competitors. To cheers from conference attendees, she also outlined a new rules-of-engagement policy that prevents HP sales reps from taking accounts from partners.

AT&T Bolsters Channel Efforts In SMB Push

AT&T unveiled a new channel initiative as the telecommunications and networking giant aims to broaden its footprint in the small- and midsize-business market. The AT&T Partner Exchange program, launched by the company's new Emerging Business Markets organization, is aimed at nurturing a VAR community that can customize and resell the vendor's mobility, cloud and networking products and services. Partners described the initiative as a major step up for AT&T in the channel, saying the program offers many of the same best practices found in channel programs from such industry leaders as Cisco, Microsoft and SAP.

Microsoft Clearly Communicates Vision For Skype And Lync

Ever since Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011 questions have remained about just how the Internet communications service would fit into the software giant's strategy. In recent months that vision has become clearer and this week Microsoft unveiled new linkages between Skype and the company's Lync communications software. Microsoft is positioning Skype for the consumer market and Lync for business communications. At the company's first Lync partner conference in San Diego this week Microsoft execs detailed plans to develop connections between Skype and Lync, including video integration between the two, to create a common communications platform.

Xamarin Toolset Links Visual Studio, iOS Development

With the rapid proliferation of iOS and Android mobile devices, development of mobile applications for those devices is exploding. But until now the thousands of developers who use Microsoft's Visual Studio development tools have had to sit on the sidelines. This week Xamarin, which fields a development toolkit for building native mobile apps, launched a new release of its software that makes it possible for Visual Studio programmers to build iOS and Android applications. As IDC analyst Al Hilwa put it, the move provides Visual Studio developers a way "to leverage their hard-earned C# development skills to write apps for iOS and Android."

NetApp Lays Out All-Flash Storage Array Strategy

Flash technology is widely seen as the future of storage. Until now NetApp has been quiet about its plans for developing all-flash storage systems. But this week the company made it clear it's all-in for all-flash. NetApp said it is developing all-flash storage systems based on a new architecture called FlashRay. The systems are targeted at scale-out flash arrays designed for both file and block storage. NetApp also provided details about the EF540, a new all-flash storage array the company has begun shipping to early adopter customers. NetApp is under competitive pressure from a number of startups developing all-flash arrays. This week NetApp made it clear it's not ceding any market share to those upstarts.