LAS VEGAS (CNNfn) - Just hours after surprising the market with an early fourth-quarter earnings release that fell far short of expectations, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s top executive outlined her company's vision and role in the next phase of the Internet era.
Carly Fiorina, who took over as the Palo Alto, Calif. company's chief executive in July 1999 and was appointed chairman two months ago, made little mention of the earnings miss, except to make a joke about it when she took the stage before a group of about 3,000 gathered at the Comdex technology trade show and conference here Monday.
"Do CEO's get to ask for a recount?" she asked shortly after taking the stage, referring to the recount in Florida of voter ballots that could determine the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.
She dedicated the rest of her hour-long speech to outlining how HP sees the Internet, and therefore the markets for its products developing and how it plans to change its business along with it. HP is one of the world's leading supplier of personal computers, printers and digital imaging systems such as digital cameras and scanners.
A big part of that strategy involves making all of these devices capable of accessing the Internet -- whether it's simply to download software updates, content or Web-based applications -- and enabling them to communicate with one another through a wireless interface standard called "Bluetooth."
Comdex, which is North America's largest technology trade show, typically is centered around common themes. This year, so-called "information appliances" -- which has come to refer to any device other than a PC that can access the Internet -- and wireless connectivity are two themes garnering the most attention.
As did Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates) Chairman Bill Gates when he kicked off the event Sunday night, Fiorina described a vision where there are lots of computing devices being used, but stressed the importance that they all be able to work together under a "federated architecture that brings all these things together."
Also as did Gates, Fiorina called for software developers to use Exensible Markup Language, or XML, as a standard for building the next generation of Internet-based applications. XML is an open-source software technology, meaning it is in the public domain, which allows for the exchange of data across different software platforms.
"A vendor neutral, standards-based approach must be adopted," Fiorina said.
She also highlighted HP's recently adopted "e-inclusion" strategy, under which it is targeting HP technology at countries and people in the world who currently do not have access to the Internet or technology.
"There us an untapped market of 4 billion people out there," she said.
However, investors on Thursday were more focused on the problems which came to light in its latest results. Although its top line came in about where expected, HP's earnings per share were 10 cents below the Street's expectations. Fiorina blamed the shortfall on a "confluence of factors," including higher expenses because of higher sales commissions and new hires and pricing pressure in HP's PC business.
Shares of HP (HWP: Research, Estimates) were down $5.50, or 14.06 percent, at $33.63 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.