In a strong vote of confidence in her leadership over the past year, Hewlett-Packard's board voted to add the position of chairwoman to its CEO and president, Carly Fiorina.
She will take over from Richard Hackborn, who had been serving as "non-executive" chairman of HP since Lewis Platt's departure last year and will continue to serve on the board.
Fiorina's elevation to chairwoman is an endorsement of her plans to revitalise HP, said Laurie McCabe, an analyst with Summit Strategies. "It gives her more visibility and puts her in a better position when she is at the bargaining table," to negotiate deals with other companies, McCabe said.
Since taking over as CEO from Platt in July 1999, Fiorina has been trying to accelerate HP's transition from a pure-play hardware vendor to a more broad-based vendor of Internet hardware, software and services.
Over the past year for instance, HP has announced a series of Internet infrastructure, services and financing initiatives designed to attract more attention to HP in a market that has been dominated so far by Sun Microsystems.
The company's bid to buy consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers for an estimated $US18 billion is another example of the services and consulting direction that Fiorina has set for HP, McCabe said.
"I think HP, like other vendors, has realised that they need to be more than just a hardware player," said Joyce Becknell, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group. "What Fiorina is trying to do is position HP more as a full-service vendor," Becknell said.
Getting there though will take some more work, Becknell said. Fiorina still needs to resolve several internal issues, such as finding the right balance between growing its profitable hardware business while expanding into the services arena, Becknell said.
Her appointment to chairwoman "consolidates her position and gives her a little more power," to resolve such issues, Becknell said.