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HP Taps SAP's Ex-CEO, Revamps Partner Program

The mystery is over as to who will be Hewlett-Packard's next CEO. The company late today announced it has appointed Leo Apotheker as president and CEO and named former Oracle president Ray Lane as non-executive chairman.

Apotheker, a 20-year veteran of SAP, spent his last year there as SAP's CEO. I was among those betting that HP would turn to an insider such as Todd Bradley, who runs the company's client systems business, or Ann Livermore, who runs its large services organization.

The appointments both take effect Nov. 1 to tie in with the beginning of HP's new fiscal year. HP's lack of a CEO hasn't held the company back from making big acquisitions -- it also hasn't kept it from making big changes to its partner program.

HP is making  some major changes to its PartnerOne program. Perhaps most noteworthy is an improved deal registration program with upfront margin in place of back-end rebates. Also, some key components of HP's businesses that were not previously in PartnerOne are now part of the program, notably HP's software business.

Many of HP's acquired companies come into PartnerOne -- 3Com and Palm, to name a few. HP has acquired dozens of companies in recent years and it doesn't show signs of letting up, recently shelling out billions for 3Par and ArcSight.

Yet despite the changes, uncertainty will reign until it becomes more clear how Apotheker will approach the channel. Will he be as well-liked by the channel as apparently Mark Hurd was?

"There is much more interest than there is concern," said Mike Galane, senior director of HP's Enterprise Server, Storage and Networking (ESSN) Channel Marketing and Strategy  for the Americas (speaking before the news broke). That certainly appears to be the case with Romi Randhawa, CEO of HPM Networks, an HP partner based in Freemont, Calif.

"We are really not concerned with the new CEO being less channel friendly," Randhawa said in an e-mail. "HP runs so much business through channel and the channel is becoming more and more important to them. They cannot afford to not be friendly with channel. They have 6 percent share in the U.S. of the SMB market. They know that the only way to grow that piece of business is through the channel."

What's your take on HP's new CEO and its changes to PartnerOne? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on September 30, 2010