The centers will be a "venue for creating mobile e-services" such as personal banking or stock trading for wireless devices, Fiorina told the audience at the 2000 World Congress on Information Technology, a three-day conference here dedicated to examining the future of information technology. The conference opened today with a speech from Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian.
"Services" has become the guiding principle in HP's strategic plans. In the future, Fiorina said, everything that can be sold will be sold as a service via the Internet--"any asset that can be turned into a service on the Web."
HP's role in this economy will largely lie in selling hardware, providing technical and marketing expertise, and putting together financing for companies creating these services, she said.
"We opened the first one in Singapore six months ago. Next, we will open centers in Bejing, Tokyo and Bangkok in the next six months," she said, while a center in Bangalore, India, will follow. Of the 200 companies that have already signed up to participate on projects in HP's e-services bazaar, 100 are based in Asia.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based technology giant will also manufacture information appliances for this new era. In the fall, HP and Swatch will introduce a wired wristwatch that will permit wearers to conduct e-commerce. In ongoing trials in Switzerland, wearers can pass through a train station turnstile without paying; the watch charges their bank accounts for the cost of the ticket.
HP will also release a "learning appliance," Fiorina said. Approximately the size of a personal calculator, the learning appliance will be hooked up to the Internet and will allow students to rapidly connect to sites that relate to their class work. The appliance and its content will be specifically geared toward middle schools.
Fiorina and Chen were among numerous high-profile speakers at the conference. So far, the dominant themes have been the growing importance of e-commerce and the need to adapt public policy to a borderless world. The word "change" seems to pop up every 30 seconds.
Examining high-tech evolution
Although many of the speeches invariably contain reheated catchphrases about the transformative powers of the Internet, the speakers are providing some interesting insights into different ways high technology is evolving.
Lester Thurow, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, predicted that Egypt would in a short time become a center for programmers, just as Bangalore has.
The country has "a lot of unemployed, educated engineers, and even the level of English is pretty high," he said.
On a different note, he predicted that traffic patterns will change and the value of retail real estate will plummet with the growth of e-commerce.
"You'd better sell your shopping centers," he said. "In 2010, half of the retail stores in America will be closed because half of all purchasing will occur online."
Chen, meanwhile, said that Taiwan will put increasing emphasis on environmental issues.
"We have decided to make Taiwan a clean silicon island," he said.
Taiwan is well-known for its environmental problems, including notoriously thick air. One of the major consumer items is electronic air filtration systems.
Stan Shih, CEO of Taiwan's Acer Group, reiterated an increasingly common theme among PC executives, namely that companies will have to strike alliances to survive. PC companies, for instance, will have to bind closer to content and service providers.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Cisco CEO John Chambers, Red Hat chairman Robert Young, and Tadashi Sekizawa, chairman of Fujitsu, are some of the speakers slated for tomorrow.