LAS VEGAS (CNN/Money) - In her Comdex keynote speech Monday morning, Carly Fiorina was expected to talk about how technology is and will continue to be used to tackle many of mankind's toughest challenges.
But the Hewlett-Packard CEO wound up spending a good portion of her speech addressing the biggest challenge that she is personally facing: criticism of HP's merger with Compaq. "The merger has improved our market position," she said. "Six months after we closed the merger, we feel pretty good about the progress we've made."
Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, above, defended the merger with Compaq during her Comdex keynote speech. (Photo: CNN/Money)
Fiorina listed a litany of products that the new HP dominates, such as printers, servers and laptops, and said that HP is running neck and neck with Dell in the personal computer market and is second to IBM in services.
She even criticized IBM's recent ad campaign about e-business, a curious move since IBM recently acquired the consulting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a business that HP unsuccessfully bid for in 2000.
Fiorina did not address the recent departure of the former Compaq CEO and her second in command, Michael Capellas, who joined WorldCom as its CEO on Friday. She also did not talk about the company's fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report, scheduled to be released Wednesday afternoon.
But twice during the speech, once at the beginning and again in closing, Fiorina issued the following statement: "Progress is not made by the cynics or doubters. It is made by those who believe everything is possible."
The remark seemed to be both a direct jab at analysts, media and competitors who have derided the merger and an advertising ploy. HP unveiled a new ad campaign Monday with the theme line of "Everything is possible."
Keeping it real
Fiorina also stressed throughout her speech that customers want practical solutions, not nifty products that are cool but add little value. "I think the last thing business customers need today are time machines or binoculars or more breathless hype about billion-dollar bets on the next big thing," Fiorina said.
This is expected to be a big theme throughout the conference. AMD CEO Hector Ruiz will urge the technology sector to "get real" during his keynote address on Tuesday.
Fiorina also echoed some of the cautious optimism that was expressed by Bill Gates during his keynote speech on Sunday night. She said the industry needed to look past the "doom and gloom headlines" and think more about the long term. "I have every reason to be hopeful about this industry," she said.
And like Gates, Fiorina also showed off some of the company's latest products, including an iPaq that requires a fingerprint identification before allowing the user to access personal information and a Tablet PC that she used to write an e-mail to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Most interestingly, HP also unveiled its lightest iPaq yet on Monday at a price of $299. That appears to be a direct response to Dell's new Axim X5 Pocket PC device, which was also officially unveiled on Monday. Dell has two versions of the Axim X5 on sale, one for $299 and the other for $199.
Looks like the Pocket PC price wars have officially begun. That certainly didn't take long.