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Adrian who? That pretty much summarizes how channel partners have reacted to Hewlett-Packard’s appointment of Adrian Jones as its new channel chief.

And who can blame them? Few partners have ever heard of the man, who comes to HP from storage vendor McData, and HP seemed to go out of its way to keep the announcement as quiet as possible.

The vendor set a conference call with reporters for 5 p.m. on a Friday to introduce Jones. Usually Friday afternoons are reserved for uncomfortable news that government agencies and companies hope will draw little attention as people get busy with their weekend plans.

Friday at 5 p.m. is past deadline for newsweeklies, which means no coverage in Monday’s issue. And it means the story will get less play the following Monday in favor of fresher news.

PointerJust who is Adrian Jones? No matter, VARs say they’re trusting HP. Click here to read more.

The introduction of a channel chief should have been something the company did with plenty of visibility, but instead HP looked as if it were trying to downplay the news.

Was the vendor so insecure about its choice that it decided to deflect attention from it? Nah, that’s most unlikely. After all, it isn’t as if HP couldn’t have picked just about anybody it wanted for the career-making position.

Sometimes a bonehead move is just a bonehead move.

But let’s hope this is the last one, at least in relation to the channel chief position. HP may be today’s channel darling, but it could be tomorrow’s nemesis. In fact, no one knows better than HP how a vendor who is a channel favorite can fall out of favor.

Jones is taking over the position vacated last October by John Thompson, who got a promotion, at a good time for HP. The vendor has taken the No. 1 position among systems vendors as Dell struggles and Lenovo tries to find its way in the market.

HP’s current position is not something the vendor can take for granted. Some residue remains of the hangover of the Carly Fiorina years, during which HP worked so hard to compete with Dell on the direct model that it chased partners into the arms of competitors.

Click here to view exclusive channel research from Amazon Consulting.

With Fiorina’s departure two years ago, HP got itself on the right track again with partners. While Fiorina busied herself writing a book and preparing for TV appearances, Thompson and other top executives at the company went to work on channel-friendly moves that went a long way to regaining the trust of partners.

Thompson’s successor, unknown or not, has to stay on the path Thompson and his peers charted so that the channel goodwill HP has recovered doesn’t evaporate.

Being a new face in and of itself is not an insurmountable negative for Jones, and it doesn’t have to be a negative at all.

Considering the company’s current harmonious relationship with the channel, Jones will have an easier go of it than if he had climbed aboard during the years of acrimony.

Besides, it isn’t as if a single individual can undo what the vendor has achieved in the channel in the last two years, unless of course that individual happens to be the CEO. Direction comes from the top, which is why during the Fiorina years the channel became the unwelcome stepchild.

Jones has embarked on a get-to-know you tour to visit channel partners and distributors. These visits will be critical because first impressions matter, though he will find the channel is more than willing to work with vendors to achieve common goals.

He should, of course, avoid 5 p.m. meetings. That is, unless he brings a bottle of Grey Goose, olives and a shaker.

Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner. He can be reached at