Week in review: Fiorina gets the boot

The embattled chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard steps down at the request of the company's board of directors.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
6 min read
Carly Fiorina, the embattled chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, stepped down at the request of the company's board of directors.

The company said the change was effective as of Tuesday, when the board made its final decision to ask Fiorina to step down. Robert Wayman, HP's chief financial officer, has been named interim CEO and has been appointed to the board. Patricia Dunn, who has served on the board since 1998, has been named chairman.

Carly Fiorina

But unemployment doesn't mean Fiorina will be going hungry anytime soon; her severance package totals $21.1 million, a sum that includes stock options and a cash payment based on her salary and bonus.

The move ended a nearly six-year tenure marked by acrimony as Fiorina battled to complete a merger with Compaq, reorganized HP's executive ranks and laid off thousands of employees. According to the company, the departure stemmed from disagreements over how to execute the company's strategy.

Many analysts have criticized Fiorina's leadership, arguing, for example, that she lacked a consistent vision. Nonetheless, a number of proponents for women in the technology and business worlds suggested that she has played an important role in opening doors for women. Her six-year rein at computer giant HP signaled that a woman could ascend to the top of a leading technology company, observers said, even as women overall have been dropping out of computer careers.

Fiorina was one of the most prominent female business executives overall and arguably the leading one in the tech world, in field that includes eBay's Meg Whitman, Lucent Technologies' Patricia Russo and Xerox's Anne Mulcahy.

As HP begins the search for its next chief executive, industry observers and CEO recruiters have plenty of suggestions about who would make good candidates. Some familiar names include MCI's Michael Capellas, who headed Compaq at the time HP bought it; Motorola CEO Ed Zander; and Dell CEO Kevin Rollins.

Wild wild Web
The boardroom isn't the only dangerous place these days--the Internet is always good for a little fear and loathing. Internet vigilantes have launched a 48-hour bandwidth attack against spammers who allegedly defraud people online.

The 419 Flash Mob, supported by Artists Against 419, has declared war on criminals who host fake bank Web sites in the hope of luring victims to deposit money there. According to Artists Against 419's Web site, "This flash mob is in celebration of Chinese New Year...Our aim is to shut down eight fake bank web sites in less than 48 hours!"

So-called 419 scams, also known as advance fee fraud, consist of e-mails, letters and faxes asking for help to recover a large sum of money from a bank, in return for a share of the loot. Some of these scammers have now graduated to running their own fake banking Web sites.

Meanwhile, virus writers have created a malicious program that can disable Microsoft's new anti-spyware application. Antivirus experts, who are calling the Trojan "Bankash-A," say it is the first piece of malicious software to attack Windows AntiSpyware, which is still in beta.

Windows AntiSpyware, built using technology from Microsoft's acquisition of Giant Company Software, is designed to protect Windows PCs from spyware--software that is installed on computers without their owners' knowledge. Typically, spyware generates pop-up ads or keeps track of people's Web surfing.

A variety of consumer products--from smart phones to digital theater boxes, and from car navigation systems to home security gear--have gone digital. And with that new technology comes exposure to a digital ill already the scourge of PC users: computer viruses.

"Like humans in a sterile environment, an unconnected device has no chance of infection," said Dan Cregg, vice president of home-automation company Smarthome. "But once you are connected to the outside world, then you are in danger."

Peer to pinched
A Dallas federal court ordered file-swapping site LokiTorrent.com to shut down and provide Hollywood lawyers with access to its full server logs, including data that could expose hundreds of thousands of people to copyright-infringement lawsuits.

The Motion Picture Association of America said it had won a quick court victory against LokiTorrent, and was launching a new round of actions against other online piracy hubs. The data provided by the onetime file-swapping hub would provide "a road map to others who have used LokiTorrent to engage in illegal activities," the trade group said. MPAA executives said the information could "quite possibly" lead to lawsuits against individuals.

In what could be a new weapon in the file-swapping war, researchers at Royal Philips Electronics are developing new "fingerprinting" technology that could automatically identify and block transmission of digital-video files.

Once completed, Philips' technology--along with related tools from other companies--could be a powerful weapon in Hollywood's increasingly aggressive attempts to choke off the flood of films being traded online. For now, the tools are in an early stage of development, but Philips has begun to show them to potential partners and customers.

Meanwhile, fee-based digital music is gaining popularity among downloaders in the United States. About 47 percent of people who downloaded music in December and who were age 12 or older paid a fee to do so. That's up from 22 percent a year ago.

While users between the ages of 25 and 54 are the most likely to have paid to download music, the number of younger people paying for it is also rising. More than half of respondents between the ages of 12 and 17 reported that they have paid for music.

Reading Redmond
Microsoft is on track to release the first full test version of the next major Windows release by the end of June, a Microsoft executive told CNET News.com. The company has said publicly that Beta 1 of Longhorn would arrive by the end of 2005, though internally, the company has been aiming for a release by midyear. The final version of Longhorn is slated for the second half of next year.

"There will be a Beta 1 of Longhorn...happening in the first half of this year," said John Montgomery, a director in Microsoft's developer division. The release will be primarily aimed at developers, Montgomery said. "I do, however, expect that you will find IT departments starting to look at it, kick the tires, figure out what's in it and what's not in it."

However, the software maker has shelved plans to release a 2.0 version of its customer relationship management software in March, saying it needs until the end of the year to finish the program. The delay comes as Microsoft hires a new executive to lead its customer relationship management division. Former PeopleSoft executive Brad Wilson joined the company on Monday as general manager of Microsoft CRM.

In an interview, Wilson insisted that the sudden decision to put off the 2.0 release was unrelated to the recent management changes. Instead, the company wants to spend more time developing the product after reviewing feedback from partners and customers, he said.

Microsoft is also considering the release of source code for a popular tool used to build Windows programs. In a blog posting last week, Shawn Burke, a development manager at Microsoft's Windows Forms team, floated the idea of releasing the source code to Windows Forms to its developer customers. Windows Forms is a programming model used with Microsoft's Visual Studio tools to build the user interface portion of Windows desktop applications.

Burke made clear that open-sourcing Windows Forms is under consideration, but that no decisions have been made. He said that the idea faces hurdles, including legal issues, security and cost, and that the move is not universally supported within Microsoft.

Aiming to boost its security portfolio, Microsoft plans to buy Sybari Software, whose Antigen scanner for Microsoft Exchange e-mail and SharePoint collaboration servers is in use among the software giant's customers. It's the company's third security-focused deal in 18 months, and a sign that the company is getting serious about security.

Also of note
The federal judge overseeing the SCO Group's suit against IBM regarding Unix and Linux thwarted an IBM attempt to defang SCO's claims, but he also voiced loud skepticism about SCO's case...In its latest play in the ongoing search wars, Google quietly launched a beta site for a new map service. ..Mark Jen, a blogger whose candid comments about life on the job at Google sparked controversy last month, has left the company...When its doors open in April, the Wynn Las Vegas casino will have one unique feature that few visitors are likely to notice--high-tech betting chips designed to deter counterfeiting, card-counting and other bad behavior.