Hewlett-Packard is starting to look more like Microsoft every day - apart from its financial results.Carly Fiorina, HP's president, chairman and chief executive officer, outlined a strategy at Comdex to provide a broad range of software technologies for enabling new types of Internet-based services. These services will let users access information such as news and sports results, as well as corporate data and e-mail, from a multitude of devices including smart phones and PCs, she said.
At the same time, Fiorina downplayed HP's earlier reported disastrous financial results, in which the company said it had widely missed earnings expectations for its fourth fiscal quarter. Earnings per share for the period amounted to 41 cents before unusual items, compared with the 52 cents expected by financial analysts.
"Don't we get a recount, too?" Fiorina quipped, referring to the ongoing dispute over who earned the most votes in the US presidential election.
In a wide-ranging speech that also touched on the digital divide and the growth of mobile computing, Fiorina said the Internet is entering a new phase in which Internet-based services will become more important to users than the products and technologies that deliver them.
In one example, she highlighted a deal announced last week with Nokia, in which the Finnish phone giant will bundle HP software with some of its products, allowing users to communicate with hardware devices such as printers from their mobile phones. HP is one of the world's biggest suppliers of printers.
She highlighted HP technologies such as eSpeak, a software platform developed by HP and designed to enable devices to 'talk' to each other intelligently. Using eSpeak, printers in the future will be able to know intelligently when they are running out of ink, and order replacement ink cartridges automatically over the Web, she said.
Her hour-long speech barely made reference to HP's giant PC and server businesses, concentrating instead on the company's software technologies.
Fiorina also highlighted HP's recent purchase of Bluestone Software, which brought the company an applications server rich in Java- and XML technologies.
"By adding Bluestone's XML-based Web application server and tools, we're creating the richest development environment for the services-based model that I'm talking about," she said.
The eSpeak strategy, which has been outlined in previous speeches, appears to put HP in direct competition with Microsoft, which through its .Net vision also aims to provide a software platform for building these Web-based services. In a veiled jab at Microsoft, Fiorina said the future of the Net must be driven by open standards, allowing software and hardware from multiple vendors to interoperate.
"We see an Internet that is no longer bound by proprietary technologies, closed computing architectures, the classic PC or even by electricity," she said. "We are seeing an Internet defined more by the companies and people that use it than the technologies that make it work."
Success in the future means learning to capitalise on the convergence of three emerging trends, she said: the growth of Internet appliances; electronic services delivered over the Web; and the fact that high-speed, always-on Internet connections will become a ubiquitous part of daily life.