15 Scintillating Scenes From HP's Global Partner Conference

HP's Global Partner Conference: Gathering The Troops

Hewlett-Packard changed the name of its annual gathering of channel partners this year to reflect the increasingly global nature of its business. HP's Global Partner Conference, held in Las Vegas from Feb. 12-15, also was CEO Meg Whitman's inaugural address to the channel. She's a newcomer to the channel, but partners enthusiastically responded to her frank assessments of the challenges HP faces and her plans for getting the company back on track.

HP has certainly dealt with adversity in recent years, and it is facing challenges to its legacy businesses that could take years to fully address. But at GPC, Whitman's executive team closed ranks and presented a unified front. Considering that this was the third consecutive year a different HP CEO took the stage, that message seemed to resonate with attendees. Here CRN presents scenes from GPC that reflect the upbeat tone of the event.

Dazzling Debut

Communication is regarded as one of Whitman's chief strengths, and it was on full display in her keynote at GPC. HP partners that may have been wary of her lack of channel experience endorsed her views on the direction HP needs to be heading, as evidenced by the hearty applause that punctuated her presentation on several occasions.

Whitman, as she did in her interview with CRN, said she sees HP as a hardware company first and has no interest in radically reshaping HP's business, as her predecessor Leo Apotheker was trying to do. If there was one central message from Whitman's keynote, it was this: The drama is over, folks, and it's time to carry on with the business of selling and evangelizing HP products.

HP's Z1 Workstation: Power Without The Tower

HP elicited oohs and aahs from the assembled partners with its unveiling of the HP Z1, an all-in-one workstation that fits in a 27-inch LCD panel and features two Intel Xeon processors and two Nvidia Quadro graphics accelerators. The Z1 display supports 30-bit color and a palette of more than 1 billion colors and features a 178-degree viewing angle and an in-plane switching panel that provides access to all the components inside.

HP Feeling Its Oats In Networking

Dave Donatelli, executive vice president of HP's Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN) division, told GPC attendees that the channel was involved in 90 percent of HP's networking product sales last year. Networking has become a "two-horse race" between HP and Cisco, but Donatelli said HP is coming on stronger than its rival.

"We've come up with different, more innovative ways to do networking and we're also producing technology that's faster than anyone else has released for a decade," Donatelli told GPC attendees. "People like our products because they're better."

Star Power

Need proof that HP partners like what they're hearing from Whitman? These star-struck GPC attendees were jostling for face time, autographs and photos with Whitman after her keynote.

Apotheker had garnered applause last year in his Americas Partner Conference keynote, most notably for declaring that HP would never pull such a stunt as Oracle did by dropping Itanium, but we're pretty sure he wasn't swarmed like this.

Veghte Takes The Stage In Vegas

Partners contribute about 60 percent of HP Software's revenue, and Bill Veghte, chief strategy officer and executive vice president of HP Software, would like that figure to be higher.

At APC last year, Veghte compared HP's software assets to peanut butter and jelly and said it was up to partners to act as the white bread. This year, Veghte talked about the growth of HP's IT Performance Suite and how giving IT visibility into what's happening with corporate assets is a key to better security.

HP's Envy 14 Spectre

Stephen DiFranco, senior vice president and general manager for the Americas region of HP's Personal Systems Group, holds up HP's most impressive PC in recent memory -- the Envy 14 Spectre. After stealing the show at CES last month with its eye-catching Gorilla Glass design, the Spectre had many GPC attendees wondering what all the buzz is about with Apple's MacBook Air.

Autonomy Co-Founder Brings The Science To GPC

Mike Lynch, Autonomy co-founder and CEO and vice president of HP's Information Management division, explained to GPC attendees where Autonomy's technology fits into HP's business, where it can drive channel revenue and the advantages it enjoys over the relational database.

Autonomy's technology, Lynch said, allows computers to understand unstructured, or "human-friendly" information -- i.e., e-mails, Twitter posts, video and audio -- which comprises the vast majority of data that enterprises generate today.

Lynch said Autonomy's technology will play a key role in ESSN and PSG hardware sales and will help to make HP's printing products more interactive. One-third of Autonomy's business is cloud, Lynch said, and that should help HP as it continues to evolve its own cloud message.

Calm After The Storm

It's been a turbulent year for HP, and nowhere has the ride been bumpier than in the PSG, whose employees spent a quarter of the year wondering about their future role in the company. Now that Whitman has sorted out the PSG matter, there's some light at the end of the tunnel, though judging from PSG's financial results in the first quarter there is still plenty of mountain left to climb.

Here HP PSG reps are shown chatting with partners on the GPC exhibit floor.

32-Year HP Veteran Joshi Rallies The Troops

Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP's Imaging and Printing Group (IPG), told GPC attendees that 50 percent of an average worker's time is spent managing digital data. HP, Joshi said, is introducing new technology to help partners move up the stack in printing and capture more high-value business.

"If you are only in hardware, we want you to move to supplies," he said. "If you are only in hardware and supplies, we want you to move to services. If you are in hardware, supplies and services, we want you to move to solutions."

Autonomy's Eye-Catching Aurasma Technology

Lynch demonstrated Aurasma, an application that uses a smartphone's camera, GPS, compass, accelerometer and Web connection to recognize symbols and objects in the real world and add interactive content to the scene on the fly. Autonomy calls it "augmented reality," and it's already big in the U.K., where it’s being used in a variety of advertising and rich media scenarios.

'Monster Opportunity' For ESSN Partners

Randy Seidl, senior vice president, Americas for HP's ESSN unit, said HP's new Proliant Gen8 servers and "Project Voyager," HP's new server architecture for automating server management, are gearing up to be game-changers in the channel.

"There's a monster opportunity for margin for partners already successful on the storage and networking side," Seidl said in a meeting at GPC.

Looking Back On A Challenging Year

Todd Bradley, executive vice president of PSG, shown here in a press conference at GPC, thanked HP partners that stood by the company during the turmoil last fall.

"It's fair to say you've stuck with us, and grown with us, in what has been a very challenging year," Bradley said.

Though it's certainly facing some headwinds, HP remains the world's largest PC maker and is focused heavily on both new technology and advanced industrial design in its mobile PCs. "Just wait 'til you see what we do with Windows 7 and with ARM," Bradley said.

Team Mentality

Whitman has made it clear that she puts a great deal of trust in the abilities of her business unit chiefs, each of whom run businesses that would dwarf many IT vendors. Whitman is pushing hard for a more unified HP, which will be a challenge for a company that has, over the years, allowed silos to form, and harden, within its organizational structure.

That team, which Whitman brought on stage at GPC, consists of (shown here l. to r.) Donatelli, Bradley, Joshi, Lynch and Veghte.

Unexpected Challenge

Hayley Tabor, HP Software’s vice president of business partnerships and field excellence, ran into a glitch at GPC that she never could have foreseen. Tabor had just announced a new 10 percent rebate for ESSN partners that bring HP Software partners into deals when the Aria hotel fire alarm interrupted her. She soldiered on with her presentation, even as the fire alarm continued to emit intermittent warning squawks, until the all-clear signal came over the hotel’s public address system.

Veghte later joked, "This business is so hot, our competitors have to pull the alarm to disrupt us."

Relationship Economics

David Nour, a motivational speaker and author of "Relationship Economics," spoke to GPC attendees about the importance of relationships. The rest of the world builds relationships first and then does business. But in the U.S., he noted, we tend to build relationships after we do business. He says getting to know customers should take precedence over P&L and that companies that operate with this in mind will see benefits down the road.