IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Hail the New HP Chief

Channel-Lands was rocked by HP’s choice for new CEO; it wasn’t an obvious pick by a long-shot. Also in this week, Microsoft renewed its efforts to measure partner and customer satisfaction, Stuxnet proved the malware threat continues to evolve, and Skype is making sound waves in the channel.

HP Gets a New Boss, Herr Apotheker

The list of potential successors for Mark Hurd’s chief executive post at Hewlett-Packard was long and included several industry luminaries. Inside HP, Personal Systems Group EVP Todd Bradley and Enterprise Business EVP Ann Livermore were top contenders. Rumors had it that Apple COO Tim Cook was on the verge of taking the job. In the end, though, the prize went to former SAP head honcho Leo Apotheker – a software guy.

When word broke of Apotheker, the channel and IT industry broke out with alternating cries of “who” and “why”.

InformationWeek’s Bob Evans described Apotheker as career software executive who spent 20 years at SAP, only to leave with a “checkered” performance record. CRN noted that partners were disappointed that HP didn’t tag someone with greater channel experience. And ComputerWorld noted that Apotheker has little to no hardware experience – the core of HP’s $115 billion revenue stream.

Apotheker takes the reins at a time when the tech giant is struggling to regain its footing internally and against a slate of rivals – most notably Oracle, IBM and Cisco. His challenge is to restore confidence amongst the HP ranks and build new bridges with partners – reseller and vendor allies – to maintain the company’s competitiveness and growth.

Pundits and critics are openly questioning Apotheker’s appointment, given the plethora of challenges facing HP. Perhaps ComputerWorld is correct in its assessment that the HP’s pick is signaling that it’s finally getting serious about software and plans to challenge Oracle and IBM on multiple fronts.

It’s still too early to say how Apotheker will engage with channel partners, OEM allies and customers. HP’s software business is anemic, at best, and it’s only beginning to get its arms around professional services. Apotheker could be the change agent for developing HP into a comprehensive, holistic IT vendor on a scale larger than even IBM.

Avaya, Facebook and Skype – Oh My

The telephony and unified communications world is focused on the emerging triumphant known as “AvFaceKype” – or the extended axis of Avaya, Facebook and Skype.

As part of its run up to IPO, Skype this week announced a partnership with Facebook to integrate the communications tools of its two platforms. The combination and consequences are enormous. The deal will allow Facebook users to dial friends with Skype without leaving the Facebook network. Skype will pull Facebook news feeds and posts into its platform.

At the same time, Avaya announced that it’s partnering to integrate some of its VoIP and collaboration tools with the Avaya enterprise unified communications portfolio. The idea is to give Avaya users direct access to some of the tools they use for personal purposes, as well as free international connections. The real magic will come in 2011, when Skype Connector is integrated with the Avaya Aura enterprise unified communications application for enterprise customers.

Skype is making no secret of its desires to move beyond consumers and into the enterprise. In June, Skype formed a channel program, essentially giving solution providers referral fees for introductions to enterprise customers.

Skype’s moves in advance and after IPO have the potential of shaking up the staid unified communications market, and that has some of the competing vendors and carriers nervous. The power of a Skype-Facebook combination – the merger of two networks that have 600 million and 500 million registered users, respectively – is so great that some analysts and pundits are calling for Google to buy Twitter immediately to maintain its relevance.

Stuxnet: The Real Threat

Computer worms are now weapons of mass destructions. That’s the conclusion of Pentagon officials, who say the destructive worm is a game changer in cyberwarfare. Earlier this week, the Iranian government announced some of its nuclear facilities – including one suspected of being able to produce weapons grade uranium – were infected by the Stuxnet worm. It is essentially the same piece of malware that struck and damaged Siemens SCADA systems in July. The power and the targeting of this worm got the attention of Pentagon and Defense planners, with many of them calling the malware the first example of destructive computer code.

In the past, computer viruses and worms were designed to disable and disrupt systems for show – hackers would gain notoriety for taking down networks. Over the past several years, malware writers have shifted their focus toward stealing information and taking control of systems for nefarious purposes. Stuxnet, military experts say, shows how malware could be used to cause real physical damage. They say a slightly different payload could cause sensitive utility and industrial systems to act different, set off a cascading series of events that lead to real destruction and, perhaps, deaths.

Iran suspects the U.S. and Israel of producing Stuxnet to disrupt its nuclear program. The highest concentration of Stuxnet infections are in Iran, although the first SCADA infection was in the Siemens factory in Germany. If Pentagon officials are correct, Stuxnet is the first real example of weaponized malware and significantly could elevate the threat posed by malware.

Microsoft Renews Satisfaction Focus

The VAR Guy reported this week on Microsoft’s renewed effort to measure the satisfaction of customers with partners. According to the TVG report, Microsoft isn’t giving up many details on what questions it’s going to ask in the survey conducted by an independent third-party. For the past several years, Microsoft has talked about customer satisfaction as a critical measure of partner performance and compensation. It will be interesting to see not just what Microsoft gets from this research, but how it uses it to tier partner benefits.

Well, that’s all the week’s news from Channel-Lands where all the technology works, all the deals are profitable and all of the companies are above average. If you want to follow me on Facebook or Twitter, feel free to connect. Share your suggestions and news with me at [email protected].

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