Revisting Dell Vs. HP

Revisting Dell Vs. HP

Back in May, when Dell first said it was going to go full bore into the channel, We asked the question on everybody's mind: "Dell Vs. HP: Who Wins?"

We have to admit, we didn't answer the question. And we're not about to try. But it is an interesting time to ask it again. When we first asked the question, Dell, the channel nemesis for more than two decades, had just said that it wanted to play in the channel.

Hewlett-Packard, on the other hand, had been playing in the channel all along. Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd was pushing his partner loyalty initiative to get partners to sell more HP products and promising to reward them for it. Still, margins on HP notebooks and desktops were not exactly what was driving profits for solution providers. So, it wasn't an open-and-shut case for HP.

Back then we posed this scenario to solution providers: If all wasn't perfect with HP and you could end up making more money by partnering with Dell, then why not do it? Plenty of people came back with answers. In a nutshell, solution providers told us that Dell was all talk. There were a few people at that time who said they would never partner with Dell, but more said they wanted to see what Dell came up with before making any decisions.

So, why revisit the issue now? Well, if last week is any indication, it looks like the answer to the "who wins?" question might be Dell. As someone who has been writing about the channel for more than a decade, that's a hard thing to say out loud.

Don't get us wrong. HP still has more sales through the channel and a loyal partner base. But the cornerstone of Hurd's partner loyalty effort, the Attach Plus rebate program, is mired in problems that are giving HP-only partners pause.

Meanwhile, Dell has come out with a channel program that has solution providers scratching their heads. Why? It looks good on paper. Of course, there is still mistrust among solution providers, but no one is arguing that Dell's stated intentions are off base. Even Dell's acquisition of iSCSI storage vendor EqualLogic seems to be going more smoothly than expected. Sure, some partners are bolting. Perhaps even one of EqualLogic's largest partners, CDW, will bolt. But Dell is handling the situation well. Michael Dell himself is calling EqualLogic partners, assuring them that the company will not take their customers away and even promising to hand them new customers.

We will have to wait and see how Mr. Dell and his company deliver on those promises. But right now, the Dell story sounds good. And that's more than we can say for HP.

Where do your loyalities lie? Let us know through your comments.