It may seem like a curious strategy, but Hewlett-Packard Canada has announced the sixth and last of its initial set of Smart Office solutions for small and medium businesses, but partners won’t be selling it for several weeks.

The delay is due to HP’s strategy of waiting for partners be

certified to sell under its new Smart Office Solutions program. “”We’ll have some ready to go within the next month and a half, two at the most,”” Geoff Kereluik, HP Canada’s vice-president of SMB, said in an interview.

Once certified the VARs will be identified in some HP marketing, he said. But the real publicity won’t come until October, when the company will make another round of solution announcements.

“We want to have a solid contingent of partners for each one of these solutions, and then we can publicly announce a list of all the partners that are certified,” he said.

In May HP Canada announced the creation of six categories of hardware, software and security products under the Smart Office name to be sold through the channel by certified VARs.

They are client protection and security, data backup and recovery, mobile workforce, self-marketing, collaboration suite and wireless workforce.

The latest, a wireless workforce solution, was revealed last week. It includes a wireless LAN assessment service, installation, an HP nx82220 notebook, ProCurve 420 wireless access point, a Jetdirect ew2400 wireless print server and an HP digital projector. Package prices start at $8,999 depending on configuration.

At the beginning of the month it announced a mobile wireless package of hardware in partnership with Rogers Wireless Inc. as the wireless service provider.

Kereluik hopes to have about 10 VARs in each of the six categories, some national solution providers and some local HP partners.

The channel is key to selling these solutions, he said, for partners will be needed for implementations. In addition, there could be customization opportunities for VARs as well, he added. (While services can be HP-branded, sold and delivered by partners, they can also be sold by partners but delivered by HP’s services staff — it’s up to the reseller.)

However, he acknowledged that there has been more enthusiasm for some certifications than others. Demand for self-marketing and collaboration solution certifications has been lower than expected, so HP is looking for and approaching suitable candidates.

Not all Smart Office-certified VARs have to be HP partners to apply, he said.

While other vendors select a small number of resellers to be beta partners for new programs, Kereluik said HP decided not to go that route because it can generate jealousy.

Announcing solutions first and waiting for VARs to apply for certification is a way of “leveling the playing field, and leaving it up to the partners who comes to the table first.”

“It’s a very partner-centric approach, as opposed to an HP approach,” he said.

HP also wanted to “create some excitement in the partner community,” he added. That strategy will continue in October when not only will the certified partners in the existing six categories be announced, a new group of solutions will be revealed for which another group of partners will be expected to apply before being allowed to sell.

That way Smart Office announcements will be a form of “recruitment engine,” Kereluik said.

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