But that will soon change thanks to new technology that will make the Net more useful to everyone, said HP's Carly Fiorina. To underscore her point, Fiorina sported a watch from Swiss watchmaker Swatch that HP will enable to access Internet services such as investment information and e-mail, she said.
"The Net hasn't lived up to its hype," she said. It's a domain for the elite which the mainstream describes with the "distant, cold, alien and threatening" term cyberspace. The challenge, she said, is to make the Net into something "pervasive, intimate, warm, friendly, useful and personal."
Naturally, HP believes it's got a place in creating this future with its "e-services" strategy to connect the Internet universe with the real world--though the company acknowledges that the strategy was a response to missing out on the first boom of the Internet. In that initial spurt, HP rival Sun Microsystems was carried to new heights, selling the server computers that power countless Web sites. IBM also associated its name with doing business on the Internet.
Fiorina also announced a $200 million advertising and marketing campaign along with a new logo intended to polish the 60 year-old computer company's image and highlight HP's technological innovations. The new logo features the company's initials but does not spell out HP's name, as the current logo does. Instead, the word "invent" underscores the new logo.
As part of the new campaign, Fiorina appointed Antonio Perez, who heads the company's consumer business and digital imaging strategy, to drive acceptance of the brand within HP.
The deal with Swatch will result in a watch that connects to the Net, Fiorina said, enabling personalized services such as automatically identifying the wearer of the watch then notifying him or her that a favorite rock band has released a new album. HP did not disclose when the Net-enabled Swatches would be available, or how much they would cost.
Since Fiorina took over from outgoing CEO Lew Platt about 100 days ago, one of her jobs has been implementing the e-services strategy. Under this plan, HP is signing partnership deals with many companies that have services to offer over the Internet. For example, HP is giving equipment and technical support to Qwest to let them rent out access to complex software. In return, HP gets a slice of revenues from the service.
HP has grander visions for e-services, though. It believes that companies with something that works well--a system for billing credit cards or dispatching tow trucks, for example--can make that service available on the Net. To make this possible, HP wants people to adopt its free electronic deal-making software, called "e-speak."
When HP unveiled its e-services plan, it said it would span the entire company's project range. However, thus far, it's only involved in relatively high-end servers and software, leaving PCs and printers out of the new scheme. Fiorina provided a few more details about how printers would involved and said that they would be used to send documents via the Internet so they're printed at their destination instead of at the source.
"We are moving from a world in which we print and distribute to one in which we distribute and print," she said. "The digitization of hard copy is a huge opportunity."
HP's acquisition of Dazel Corporation will help drive this business, she said.
One industry that's going through a change, she said, is the car industry, which is waking up to the fact that they sell electronic services as much as cars.
"They're beginning to understand that the car is a platform for the delivery of services" such as in-car navigation, emergency roadside help or telecommunications. "It's with the combination of the product and the service that revenue and profit are being made."
Fiorina also touted HP's CoolTown project, a demonstration of a world where every person and device has a Web site. That world would allow a smart alarm clock to give its owner a few extra minutes' sleep on a day of light traffic, she said.
HP is positioned well for this world that ties together back-end computers, appliances and other Internet-enabled gadgets and the software to make the system work, Fiorina said. Through partnerships between HP and other companies, she promised to help create this world.
"Our great challenge is to find the right balance of the best with reinvention of the rest," she said.