Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) is on the mend. The company's stock has rebounded sharply since January 2013 and now trades near a 52-week high. During the recent HP Global Partner Conference, the company listened closely to SMB channel partners. CEO Meg Whitman impressed our editorial team with a shockingly open statement about her CEO succession goal. Despite the progress, HP continues to miss huge opportunities in the managed services provider (MSP) market. And I suspect IBM (NYSE: IBM) is capitalizing -- in a big way -- on those missed HP opportunities. Here's why.

Here's the simple fact:
  • At IBM PartnerWorld earlier this month, Big Blue spent considerable time courting and honoring MSPs. And IBM was paying more than lip service to managed services providers.
  • At HP Global Partner Conference a week earlier, the company barely mentioned managed services.
Now let's take a closer look at the momentum statements and the missed opportunities.

IBM MSP Strategy

I don't have the exact figure, but I believe IBM has successfully recruited and trained more than 6,000 MSPs in the past year or two. (Memo to IBM VP Ed Abrams -- what's the exact figure again?). IBM sees MSPs and ISVs through a similar lens. In fact, IBM is hoping ISVs deploy their applications in MSP data centers. And MSPs, in turn, should deploy their converged data centers atop IBM's PureFlex Systems. What if you're an MSP that lacks a data center? Then you can tap into IBM's SmartCloud system.

The IBM strategy is concise and simple to understand. I'm not suggesting it's perfect -- IBM still has to more clearly connect the dots between its ISV and MSP ecosystems. IBM must also decide if it's going to engage smaller MSPs. So far, the strategy seems to be a pure mid-market play. Nevertheless, IBM's MSP message was everywhere at PartnerWorld.

HP and MSPs

Now, let's shift gears to HP Global Partner Conference. The good news: HP showed lots of innovative technologies. The company apologized for 2012's missteps -- which are far too long to list here. It was a good showing for the overall HP partner program. But the big missing piece was managed services.

HP mentioned managed print services for a minute or two on-stage. But consider this: Level Platforms, one of HP's most loyal MSP software partners, didn't have a major presence at the conference. That's a big mistake on HP's part. Other mistakes:
  • Every time HP partners sell a notebook, desktop or server PC, those systems should come bundled with MSP software agents that channel partners can activate on demand.
  • Every time HP announces a major printer refresh, the news should include a managed print services component. Sure, HP announces lots of managed print services wins. But most of those victories involve direct sales. What about channel partners, HP?
  • Every time HP announces a public cloud or Autonomy milestone, the company should explain how third-party MSPs are plugging into HP's cloud.
Bottom Line

When it comes to the mainstream channel, HP has impressed a lot of VARs in recent weeks. But when it comes to recurring revenue opportunities and managed services, HP can still learn a lot from its top rival: IBM.