"This is the breakout year for Linux; it's on everyone's watch list," Fiorina said in her keynote at the LinuxWorld Expo in New York. "We see HP's role as helping to increase Linux's credibility in the business world. Customers are feeling the economic pinch, and they are a lot more open to considering Linux."
Taking a swing at critics of the merger plan, she said: "There are some who find change exciting, and others who find it intimidating. Some find it exhilarating, others find it exhausting. Some know they will gain from it, others fear they will lose from it."
Fiorina's comments appeared aimed at Walter Hewlett, the son of HP co-founder William Hewlett and a leader in the opposition against the merger. Hewlett, also an HP board director, issued a report Wednesday, called "Large Computing Mergers Have Consistently Failed," that detailed unfortunate combinations.
Hewlett-Packard, trying to line up support before a vote expected in March on the $23.5 billion deal, responded that big deals worked when they created market leaders and stuck to expanding businesses rather than launching new ones.
Fiorina also used the speech to promote a new range of Linux services and products unveiled by HP Tuesday, including two high-end, carrier-grade servers for the telecommunications industry. In addition, she revealed an alliance with movie studio Dreamworks SKG, which calls for HP to provide workstations, servers, printers, and networking equipment that use Linux for an animation studio Dreamworks is building at its headquarters in Glendale, Calif. Financial details of the three-year, multimillion-dollar deal were not disclosed. (Reuters contributed to this report).