Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) appointed Chief Financial Officer Robert P. Wayman as interim chief executive to replace Carly Fiorina (search), who was ousted Wednesday amid differences between the firm's board.

Wayman, HP's chief financial officer, was named CEO on an interim basis and appointed to the board of directors of the computer and printer maker. Wayman rose through the ranks at HP after joining the company in 1969.

Fiorina, one of the most powerful women in business, had been with the computer and printer maker since 1999. HP said a search for a new CEO was underway immediately.

"While I regret the board and I have differences about how to execute HP's strategy, I respect their decision," Fiorina said a statement. "HP is a great company and I wish all the people of HP much success in the future."

Patricia Dunn, vice chairman of Barclays Global Investors and a member of HP's board since 1998, was named non-executive chairman of the board.

The announcement came after recent reports suggested the HP board of directors had discussed shifting some day-to-day responsibilities from to other executives in an effort to improve the technology giant's performance.

Directors said Fiorina, whose salary and bonus for 2003 totaled $3.5 million, failed to evenly boost profits across all divisions, ranging from printers and computer servers to technology consulting contracts with Fortune 500 companies.

Fiorina was lured to HP in July 1999 from Lucent Technologies Inc. (LU), where her background was in sales, and put in charge of a company dominated by engineers since its founding in a Palo Alto garage. She quickly moved to reorganize its structure and remove bureaucracy, then launched ad campaigns focusing on HP's innovation.

But, observers say, HP lost more than expenses and thousands of employees during the process. Fiorina erased the employee-focused culture once known as the "HP way," focused single-mindedly on quarterly profits, and alienated employees. That, business experts say, ultimately may be her lasting legacy.

"This was a company that was the essential model of innovation, a great model of leadership style. Everyone used this as a model for the integrity of the engineers," said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, associate dean of the Yale School of Management. "No CEO uses HP as a model for anything now."

Fiorina is best known for orchestrating the Compaq acquisition — a $19 billion deal that required her and Compaq boss Michael Capellas to spend months wooing reluctant executives and shareholders.

In recent months, she has been the target of intensifying criticism from technology analysts and the media for her ambitious diversification strategy — an attempt to change HP from a relatively marginal company that focused on printers and ink into a Silicon Valley consulting and computing powerhouse.

Despite her efforts, the company's printers and ink division has remained HP's profit center. HP has also faced more than two years of withering competition from Dell Inc. (DELL), which revolutionized the sale of low-margin printers, and IBM Corp. (IBM), which is focusing on lucrative consulting contracts.

Appearing at the World Economic Forum last month, Fiorina tried to downplay a Jan. 24 report in The Wall Street Journal that said HP's board was considering shifting her day-to-day duties to other HP executives. At the conference in Switzerland, she called the report "speculation" and said her relationship with the board remained excellent.

The fiercest resistance came from HP director Walter Hewlett, son of an HP co-founder. Hewlett argued that the deal would dilute profits from its printer unit while the company absorbed Compaq's low-margin PC business. Employees also soured on the deal, which led to the elimination of thousands of employees per quarter for more than a year.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.