Customers 'in charge' in the digital world, says Fiorina

Carly Fiorina, the former HP, Lucent and AT&T executive spoke to a small gathering of IP telephony suppliers, resellers and customers today in Los Angeles, telling the conference that a revolution is on its way and they better be prepared for it. She emphasized that "every physical process and analog content will become digital, mobile, virtual, and personal. It will happen to everything - music, photography, telephony, and computing."

Fiorina spoke to the group from her heart and based on her long tenure in the telephony and IT businesses. She met her husband selling AT&T Dimension 2000 PBXs and took Lucent public before having a turbulent career at the helm of Hewlett Packard where she orchestrated the merger of Compaq.

She was passionate about these changes, and said how "customers are now in charge because they have seen a glimpse of what is possible. It used to be the providers were in charge, and regulators spent time protecting customers from cable and telco providers. But with the advance of technology, the equation has reversed and customers are now demanding solutions and have enough choices and plenty of people to solve their problems, so they can be in the driver seat."

She also spoke about the changes to come in the industries that she has spent her career on. "The telecom and computing industries were all about vertical integration and specialization - and now we have to move towards horizontal distribution. That also means we have to manage people differently and collaborate differently. The providers who get there first will win. A new kind of leadership is required."

She had plenty to say about whether telecom regulators can keep up with technology. "Not any more, and this is because technology is changing so rapidly. No matter how enlightened, regulators can't keep pace. But the pace of regulation and the pace of technology are fundamentally different." She went on to talk about how regulators need to "change their mindset from consumer protection to consumer enablement. Consumers are smart and have a lot of choices, especially the younger they are." By enablement, she means that businesses and individuals can have the tools to make their own technology choices.

David Strom
Strom is the former editor-in-chief at Tom's Hardware and the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine. He has written thousands of articles for dozens of technical publications and websites, and written two books on computer networking.