HP aims to woo would-be Lenovo partners

Patrick Eitenbichler, director of PartnerOne strategy at HP

Patrick Eitenbichler, director of PartnerOne strategy at HP

HP is targeting customers and resellers who will be sent from IBM to Lenovo when that latter’s purchase of the former’s industry-standard server business is compete. Dubbed Project Smart Choice, HP’s campaign looks to provide incentives for both customers and partners to jump to HP rather than being sent to Lenovo.

Chuck Smith, vice president and general manager for blades and cloud in the Industry-Standard Server unit of HP’s Enterprise Group, said the program is about making customers and partners are aware that HP is about more than just hardware.

“We believe HP is the smart choice for not only data centre needs, but for cloud, for SMB, for service providers, essentially for the whole new style of IT as it’s delivered in the marketplace,” Smith said. “What we’re saying is that for customers, there’s a better way in terms of brand choice with our converged infrastructure strategy.”

The same pitch is true for partners, where HP is positioning itself as more of a full solution partner, comparing to Lenovo as a products vendors with an expanding portfolio, but still far from end-to-end.

“Partners focused on the enterprise will be able to get a server box from Lenovo. That’s not a bad thing, but if a customer needs more than that, say hybrid IT, cloud in some fashion, Big Data and other solutions capabilities, they’re going to have to look elsewhere, because they’re not going to get it from Lenovo,” said Patrick Eitenbichler, director of marketing for PartnerOne strategy in HP’s enterprise group.

While much of the attention paid to the program has surrounded the partner recruitment effort, Eitenbichler said the program is not about “recruiting additional partners and increasing competition” among old and new HP partners, but rather about helping existing partners get into IBM accounts.

That said, the program is clearly about partner recruitment in part – one provision of Project Smart Choice clears the way for IBM partners at the Premier tier or higher to be “grandfathered” into either the Silver or Gold tier of PartnerOne.

“They still have to complete the requirements, but they get a six month extension and they can represent themselves at a similar level they had with IBM,” Eitenbichler said.

For customers, there are a range of efforts in the category of “transition assistance,” ranging from executive briefings to financing and other offers. Offers may differ by customer, by region, and by country, Smith said.

HP is no stranger to this kind of activity, and it’s found itself on the other side of the coin in the past, as recently as 2011 when it had its Leo Apotheker-led “will they or won’t they” sell off the PC division drama. At that time, rivals – Lenovo included – made public attempts to lure partners and customers away from HP.

“We have the stability now and they have the instability,” Eitenbichler remarked.

Big Blue, for its part, shrugged off the offensive. Marc Dupaquier, general manager of global business partners at IBM, admitted that shortly after the deal was announced, at the time of its PartnerWorld Leadership Conference event in Las Vegas, there was some concern amongst partners, but efforts by both IBM and Lenovo have stemmed that tide. Most notably, partners are being assured that although brands will change, there will be a sense of continuity post-deal.

“Nothing much changes for the business partner. The IBMer who was covering you becomes a Lenovo employee, but it’s still the same human being from the same place as before,” he said.

Is he surprised to see opponents on the offensive? Not at all, although Dupaquier would describe HP efforts as a pre-emptive defense, especially in light of the previous Lenovo/IBM pact, which quickly turned Lenovo into a global juggernaut in the PC space.

“It’s not god news for HP or Dell to see Lenovo coming into this space. IBM’s technology is very good, and Lenovo is very fast. The last thing they want to see is Lenovo coming into the market with IBM technology,” he said.