HP Can't Follow Apple Here

Just because CEO Meg Whitman has a strong history in consumer marketplaces doesn't mean that Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) is ready to be a retail store darling.

DigiTimes is reporting that HP is establishing a full-service center in Taipei. The PC and printing giant supposedly already has a few of these full-service centers throughout Asia where it combines product maintenance with sales under a branded store format.

I don't know if this will fly or not in Asia, but HP obviously has another thing coming if it decides to try this closer to home.

Every company has seen Apple (NAS: AAPL) excel with its branded stores, and apparently there's a fine line between envy and naivete.

Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) gave it a go three years ago. It seemed laughable at the time, but at least Mr. Softy has the Xbox 360 wooing consumers as the console of choice. The result is that there are now 14 Microsoft Store locations throughout the country, with at least another four on the way.

There are reports of Amazon.com (Nasdsaq: AMZN) opening a physical store near its home turf of Seattle, but -- again -- this will be emphasizing the company's unique Kindle products and books from its Amazon Publishing line.

HP makes decent computers and great printers, but where's the hook? Where's the iPad, Xbox 360, or Kindle?

It's just hard to justify a box maker giving branded retail a go. Strip mall landlords are still fresh with Gateway and Dell store closures from less than a decade ago.

DigiTimes reports that this will be HP's eighth service center in Asia, so perhaps it's working at some level overseas. Laptop specialist Lenovo already has a handful of stores open, and it's targeting 1,000 stores throughout Asia.

Hopefully HP recognizes that it has more to lose -- through brand-defacing embarrassment and alienating existing HP distributors -- than gain if its "I want to be like Apple" dream ever finds it turning to stateside mall landlords for available retail space.

The HP weigh
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At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon.com.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Amazon.com, Microsoft, and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating bull call spread position sin Microsoft and Apple. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't afraid of retail stores. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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