HP must keep moving forward, Fiorina says

Carly Fiorina has not softened her position on the proposed merger between Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. If anything, HP's chief executive officer has become even more combative in the face of criticism from opponents of the merger.

Fiorina began her keynote here at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in her typically esoteric way, talking the audience through the history of imaging, from the first drawing through the digital camera, joking that attendees had probably expected to hear a stump speech about the proposed merger.

The joke didn't last long, however. Fiorina used examples of the integration between HP's printing and digital camera business as a springboard to discuss "the power of combination" -- specifically, the combination of HP and Compaq.

"HP cannot be a company frozen in time," Fiorina said. "We cannot sustain our company by standing still."

Throughout her keynote, Fiorina drove home the need for HP to move forward through the proposed merger with Compaq. "There is no future in the status quo," she said. Fiorina also laid claim to the legacy of HP co-founder Bill Hewlett by quoting him when she proclaimed, "To remain static is to lose ground."

The proposed merger, which was once valued at as much as US$25 billion, has so far traveled a bumpy road, riddled with obstacles including vocal opposition to the deal from Walter Hewlett, the son of HP's co-founder and namesake. Family members of co-founder David Packard and the boards of various family trusts have also voiced their opposition to the merger, saying that it would destroy the value of HP's shares and bury the company in the waning PC market.

Shareholders of the two companies are expected to vote on the merger early this year, although a specific date has not yet been set.

Fiorina also used her keynote to introduce the PhotoSmart 812 digital camera, featuring a technology called Instant Share. Using the camera, users take a picture and push a couple of buttons to mark it with preset profiles, Fiorina said. A user can have one pre-set profile, for example, for a friend who prefers to receive photos through e-mail, and another for someone who prefers printed photos.

When the camera is plugged into its docking station, which is attached to a PC, it automatically launches applications according to the profile selected for each photo, Fiorina said. If a photo is designated for e-mail, the e-mail application will automatically be launched and the photo will be e-mailed, while those selected to be printed will be automatically printed, she said.

The PhotoSmart 812 will be available in late March, Fiorina said.

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Douglas F. Gray

Computerworld

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