It has often been said that Hewlett-Packard (HP) is fighting a war on two fronts: with Dell at the low end and IBM at the high end.
But while previously HP has operated two distinct defence forces - in the shape of its high-end direct arm and its channel - recently the vendor appears to have changed its game plan.
Instead of using its armies in separate battles, the vendor seems to have blurred the lines defining where its channel and direct businesses operate.
In my eyes it looks as if HP is attempting to win any account by any means possible. This may be a way to win the battle, but it certainly isn't the way to win the war.
The other problem is that while IBM and Dell are aware of HP's difficulties, other vendors, such as Sun, are also trying to exploit any weaknesses in the HP strategy by launching programmes to entice away the company's VARs and end users.
A number of factors - such as HP chief executive Carly Fiorina's recent claim that HP was "forced to take any additional steps to ensure delivery, including fulfilling direct orders via the channel", the axing of the company's Centres of Excellence programme and its expected Synstar purchase - will not have served the vendor particularly well in the eyes of the channel.
Add to that HP cutting prices (and therefore margins) to compete with Dell, and it is unsurprising that in a recent poll in the US 27 per cent of resellers said they saw no profit difference between selling HP and selling Dell.
Having spoken to VARs on this side of the pond, many are now openly talking about Dell - not as foe, but as friend. Resellers understand that Dell can take an account direct at any time, but they still see a profit in dealing with the vendor on a case-by-case basis.
My message to HP is that it's quality, not quantity, that counts. Stop checking out what your rivals are doing, and focus attention on what you have always been good at: running a focused, value-add, good-quality channel and keeping your direct business where it is needed most, in the true high-end space.
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