Hewlett-Packard has lambasted claims it is attempting to build a bridge over its channel partners to deal directly with blue-chip customers following the announcement of its second online sales initiative in a month.
While IBM and Compaq have both tacitly announced plans to deal directly with their top 200Ð300 customers (see ARN June 17, page 8), David Lenz, local HP marketing manager for enterprise accounts, last week stated his company is not about to follow suit.
"In Australia we are looking at continued development of the channel in servicing enterprise accounts," Lenz said. "At the moment we are reviewing our strategy and reassessing how we train and educate those partners."
But the assurances come amidst growing speculation that HP is toying with a direct sales model in certain areas of their business.
Last week HP announced a new online software delivery service (www.software.hp.com) to enable customers to purchase and upgrade software directly over the Internet.
Officials describe the site as a "Unix applications" Web site. It offers several HP software offerings from simple printing packages right up to enterprise scale Unix and Java Workshop technologies.
Lenz said that the new online service is not intended to cut out resellers. He said it will create a convenient purchase medium for users of "component-based products" and is structured to require close involvement of the company's existing VARs. But this is only the latest initiative raising the question of HP's channel fidelity.
A month ago the company forged an unlikely alliance with rival PC supplier Dell whereby the direct sales champion will sell HP scanners and printers via its own direct delivery Web site.
Local officials interviewed by ARN last week maintain this agreement is currently exclusive to the US; however, corporate relations spokes-person Adrian Weiss would not discount the possibility of it extending to Australia if trials in the US and elsewhere are successful.
"Nothing is out of the question and we will be observing that agreement closely," Weiss said.