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Fiorina echoes Gates' optimism

In her Comdex keynote, the Hewlett-Packard CEO picks up where Bill Gates left off, saying that in spite of current woes, the tech industry still has plenty of forward momentum.

LAS VEGAS--Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina picked up Monday where Bill Gates left off a night earlier, saying that in spite of current woes, the technology industry still has plenty of forward momentum.

"Even though we come back to Vegas this year with maybe more on our minds," Fiorina said, "not only war and recession and terror...but fear that the wheels of innovation in our industry have slowed, I come to this conference more hopeful for the future than I have ever been."

On Sunday night, Gates, too, was optimistic, saying technology would begin spreading outward from the PC into all areas of people's lives. Fiorina's Comdex keynote touched on the same themes of opportunity and omnipresence.

She showed the first TV commercial from HP's new multimillion-dollar brand advertising campaign, designed to convince customers that "plus HP, everything is possible." The campaign shows HP technology and services powering everything from Formula One race cars to a Finnish wildlife program to

Fiorina said that what all the customers in the commercial have in common is that they were told that their dreams were impossible.

Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina "In every single case, they proved the critics wrong, and in every single case HP was there," Fiorina said. "Progress is not made by the cynics and the doubters, it is made by those who believe everything is possible."

Fiorina also reflected on her past Comdex messages, including a speech three years ago when she said HP was "setting out on a process to preserve what is best about HP and reinvent the rest." The most public example of that, she said, was the acquisition of Compaq Computer that HP completed six months ago.

"We think we return to this stage as a more complete partner for our clients and customers," Fiorina said.

She didn't mention the recent departure of HP President and former Compaq CEO Michael Capellas or whether it would affect HP. Capellas left the company last Monday, and on Friday took over the helm at telecommunications giant WorldCom. HP has no plans to hire a new president. Some analysts have expressed concern that Fiorina may be taking on too much.

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Fiorina's forecast: Tech future's bright
Carly Fiorina, CEO, Hewlett-Packard
Later in her speech, Fiorina drew lines between HP's current vision and that of rivals, particularly IBM.

"While IBM is placing $10 billion bets on the final chapter of e-business and saying you are at the HP we don't see it that way," Fiorina said. "The path to the future is about taking one step at a time...a continuum and not a crossroads."

Fiorina also highlighted HP's work in developing nations. She highlighted a solar-powered digital camera and printer that are used by street photographers in India to create government mandated photo IDs. Fiorina said HP sells the gear at cost, enabling the photographers to take and print pictures for about 50 rupees, or about a dollar.

"The pack quickly pays for itself and becomes a sustainable business for that photographer," Fiorina said. "It is not hard to imagine extending this kind of technology to power things like home water purification systems and televisions and lamps."

One of the keynote's lightest moments came as Fiorina's microphone momentarily cut out, leaving the large crowd giggling.

"I'm back," Fiorina said moments later as the sound returned. "You see the miracles of technology."