5 Companies That Came To Win This Week (Plus A Bonus)

The Week Ending Jan. 31

This week's roundup of companies that came to win this week include Lenovo's big smartphones acquisition, Microsoft's move in open source, FalconStor's channel program efforts, SimpliVity's savvy executive hires, HP's server sales gains and (bonus sixth winner!) Google's AI acquisition.

Lenovo To Acquire Motorola's Mobility Smartphone Business

Lenovo is setting itself up to be a one-stop-shop for servers, PCs, tablets, laptops and smartphones with this week's deal to acquire Motorola Mobility's smartphone business from Google for $2.91 billion.

News of the pending acquisition comes just one week after Lenovo struck a deal to acquire IBM's x86 server business for $2.3 billion.

Observers said the smartphone deal with Google positions Lenovo as an end-to-end IT vendor that could compete with Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Lenovo partners said the acquisition paves the way for them to enter the smartphone market, while solution providers that work with Samsung and other vendors now have a reason to give Lenovo another look.

Microsoft Open-Sources Cloud Server Hardware Designs

For many years, Microsoft was generally seen as the least friendly company to the open-source community. But more recently, the software giant has been evolving into a more open-source-friendly company. This week, Microsoft took a big step in that direction when it joined the Open Compute Project and contributed the previously proprietary specifications it uses for the cloud servers used to run Windows Azure, Bing and Office 365.

The OCP, a Facebook-led consortium, is applying open-source principles to make data center hardware design as efficient as possible. By contributing the hardware design specs, Microsoft is making them available for other companies to use. The technology includes the code it developed to manage hardware operations, server diagnostics and power supplies. Microsoft's move isn't entirely altruistic. It gives the company a seat at the OCP table and could open the doors to the hyper-scale server data center environment, a market that until now has been dominated by Linux.

FalconStor Rebuilds Channel Program, Offering New Partner Opportunities

FalconStor Software has had a rough couple of years that's included declining sales, a bribery scandal that resulted in a $5.8 million penalty, and the sudden resignation of president and CEO Jim McNiel in July.

So it's encouraging to see that one of the vendor's priorities for getting back on track is rebuilding its channel program and turning to its resellers to spur growth. This week, the developer of disk-based data protection technology, said it relaunched its partner program with a streamlined tier structure, more training opportunities for resellers and more channel-support people in the field.

The program relaunch is the most visible result of work being done by Tracy Balent, senior director of channel sales, who joined FalconStor last year after spending 17 years as a channel executive with CA Technologies.

SimpliVity Hires Former EMC Execs, Positions Itself For Rapid Growth

Converged infrastructure technology startup SimpliVity this week confirmed it hired two former EMC executives to oversee its global sales and global alliances operations. The hires put the company in a stronger position as it prepares to do battle with Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and other converged infrastructure competitors.

SimpliVity confirmed it hired Mitch Breen (pictured) as senior vice president of global sales. Breen had been senior vice president of North American sales at Oracle for the last eight months. Before that, Breen worked at EMC for 20 years and played a major role in building the storage technology giant's partner program.

SimpliVity also confirmed that it hired George Hope as the company's new head of global alliances. Until this month, Hope was director of global channels at EMC's Isilon division.

HP Beats Dell And IBM In Fourth-Quarter Server Sales

Hewlett-Packard has retained the top spot in the competitive server market, according to preliminary numbers from market researcher Gartner this week, with the company recording its second consecutive quarter of server shipment gains.

HP's worldwide server shipments were up 9.5 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter, according to Gartner. Given that worldwide shipments of x86-based servers were up 3.8 percent, that means HP is gaining market share (which stood at 28.2 percent in the fourth quarter). And at least some of that is coming from HP's rivals as Gartner said Dell's server shipments were down 5.4 percent and IBM's server shipments dropped a whopping 19.8 percent.

Extra kudos to HP for stepping up its "Just Right IT" partner initiative this week with new "Flex-Bundle" product-and-service packages that offer additional margin for partners selling to SMBs.

Bonus: Google Acquires Artificial Intelligence Developer

While Google's sale of its Motorola Mobility smartphone business to Lenovo captured big headlines this week, the search engine giant's acquisition of artificial intelligence developer DeepMind Technologies for a reported $400 million largely flew under the radar.

But for Google, the DeepMind purchase has potentially huge implications. London-based DeepMind is developing leading-edge artificial intelligence that uses machine learning and systems neuroscience technology. The technology could potentially be used in Google's core search applications, as well as its emerging efforts in the Internet of Everything.

Google reportedly beat out Facebook, which was said to also be interested in buying DeepMind. It's the latest in a series of interesting acquisitions by Google, including "smart thermostat" maker Nest earlier this month and robotics developer Boston Dynamics in December.