Hewlett-Packard is moving to strengthen its channel in two directions - aligning itself with partners offering complete solutions and moving closer to Microsoft NT.
While mixing with the complete solution providers is no surprise, cuddling closer to Microsoft has caused some concern that HP is distancing itself from Unix.
"Not so," said Clark Straw emphatically. He is HP's general manager for the channels and partners organisation for its worldwide computer systems organisation. "We see the moves with Microsoft as complementing our continued push into the Unix market.
"With all our relationships with other vendors, HP very much takes the middle road. For example, this is what we do with Oracle and Netscape.
"We see the agreement [with Microsoft] as being good for us and good for Microsoft. It is also in tune with what our customers want," said Straw.
Specifically, HP and Microsoft are committing to Microsoft Exchange and HP will discontinue marketing and development of OpenMail on NT. Microsoft is also committing to work with HP to improve interoperability between Exchange and HP-UX based OpenMail.
Both will commit to SMS and OpenView. HP will market SMS as part of an OpenView IT/Administration package.
Straw was in Australia recently to oversee the implementation of a reseller certification program. This will see qualified resellers becoming more of an extension of HP's direct sales force.
It will also see HP opening up its intranet to resellers that will allow them access to internal HP material for more easily specifying and configuring systems.
"We recognise resellers need more margins to remain profitable," Straw said. "We will be encouraging resellers to take on more tasks that have those higher margins such as professional services and hardware support," he said.
"We've been doing this in the US and we're looking at moving the model into this region. It will also mean we will be looking for a higher level of reseller."
Launched in the US in November last year, the HP Certified Channel Partner Program has certification available in three areas - sales, technical pre-sales and technical post-sales.
Appropriate training courses are available for each area of certification. HP said that in general, sales and technical professionals should pass the certification exam if they have taken the appropriate training course and completed the associated self-paced workbooks.
The company said it was also biasing its direct sales force to work proactively with resellers.
More on HP's Certified Channel Partner Program is available from 1800 806 944 or e-mail Linda Tsui at HP's Asia-Pacific office at firstname.lastname@example.org In anticipationHP and Microsoft were very keen to avoid the impression that either one of them was abandoning long held beliefs in the joint announcement.
These beliefs include HP's commitment to Unix and Microsoft's push for a greater penetration into the corporate world of NT.
So much so that the announcement was accompanied by 20 pages of model questions and answers. That's more than 6000 words designed to put the record as straight as possible.
But the comprehensive Q&A package tends to muddy several issues rather than clarify them. For example, HP will discontinue OpenMail on NT. That much is clear from page one of the Q&A script.
But then on page 16 another model question and answer session runs as follows:
Q: Does HP's endorsement of Exchange mean that OpenMail is going away?
A: HP: Absolutely not. HP has a very successful messaging business on Unix. This announcement formalises the position of both companies that we have a common view of messaging with Exchange/Outlook as a client connected to either Exchange servers on NT or OpenMail Servers on Unix. We are meeting our joint customer needs through integration at both the server and client level to enable our enterprise customers to deploy successfully in a heterogeneous environment."