Hewlett-Packard plans to launch an HP Cloud and an app store for consumers and enterprises, according to HP CEO Leo Apotheker. Those cloud plans surfaced during Apotheker's HP Americas Partner Conference keynote a few minutes ago in Las Vegas. HP's cloud strategy is ambitious. In fact, I wonder if it's too ambitious, and I also wonder where HP channel partners will ultimately fit in.

During the conference, Apotheker described an "Everybody On" cloud strategy that sounds quite a bit like Microsoft's "All In" cloud strategy. HP is promising to launch a public cloud, an app store, developer tools and more to connect the dots between data centers, cloud computing and devices like PCs, printers and tablets. Updated, March 29: HP also unveiled the HP CloudSystem Partner Program.

In stark contrast, rivals like Oracle and Cisco Systems have vowed not to launch public clouds, instead deferring public cloud opportunities to channel partners and service providers.

The big question: Where do channel partners fit in the HP Cloud strategy? Apotheker assured more than 1,000 channel partners here that the company remains committed to partners. And Channel Chief Stephen DiFranco described HP's progress with channel partners in the past year. Plus, HP and Axcient are celebrating SMB partner wins in the managed services market, a close cousin to the cloud industry.

Question Marks


Still, plenty of questions remain. Apotheker did not discuss any specific channel partner cloud strategy -- though HP is expected to discuss that topic over the next couple of days here at HP Americas Partner Conference. Earlier this month TalkinCloud warned HP to avoid a key cloud channel mistake that Microsoft has already made. Will HP heed that advice? I'll be searching for answers over the next couple of days.

Even if HP gets its cloud channel partner strategy right, the company is in catch-up mode -- especially with the forthcoming HP Cloud. Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Rackspace have been online and growing rapidly in recent years, and even Microsoft's fledgling Windows Azure cloud has been online for a full year.

Moreover, HP needs to carefully articulate an ISV strategy to ensure the forthcoming HP app store(s) are populated with quality business and consumer apps. Those app stores will most certainly support the forthcoming HP TouchPad tablet, which DiFranco demonstrated earlier today.

Overall, the HP Americas Partner Conference has been an upbeat engagement. But the forthcoming HP Cloud launch sounds somewhat late and extremely ambitious to me. Plus, I'm yet to hear how partners will potentially profit from HP Cloud.

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