The Worst Stock on the Dow

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^ DJI) is full of iconic companies, some of the most recognized and admired companies in the world ... and Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) . What once was a widely respected and innovative company today finds itself lost and rudderless, unable to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

Dysfunctional board? Check.

Management with no clear turnaround plan? Absolutely.

Declining financial performance? That, too.

In almost every way, HP currently disappoints investors. It does hold the crown as the world's No. 1 personal computer manufacturer, and industry observers expect the PC market to grow 4% this year, implying expected shipments in the ballpark of 368 million -- no small potatoes. But in a world where PC-making is becoming an increasingly low-margin business, being No. 1 means very little.

The real problem with HP, and many of the old-line PC makers, including Dell, is that they have no credible plan to address the direction the future is heading in, and that's a problem that should have investors shaking in their boots. HP's attempts to move into new markets have been almost laughably inept. In 2010, the company spent $1.2 billion to acquire smartphone maker Palm, touting that its webOS mobile software would allow it to compete in this growth area. It didn't work out that way, and late last year, new CEO Meg Whitman announced that the company would make webOS open-source, in a strong signal of defeat.

On the tablet front, the TouchPad product that came to market was an epic flop as well. Although there was some fanfare surrounding the release, the enthusiasm was short-lived. Problem was, the TouchPad lacked the software chops needed to give users the compelling experience they can find elsewhere. Instead, the company decided to try to entice consumers by including hardware specs like Corning's (NYS: GLW) Gorilla Glass. And while Gorilla Glass has certainly seen some success in the tablet space, it doesn't move the needle quite as much as credible software. In no time, retailers were slashing prices left and right to simply move the idle inventory.


Note the $300 discount. Again, far from a smashing success.

And worst of all, other companies are busy making major inroads into these massive growth markets while HP still has yet to announce any kind of achievable action to right the ship. Apple's (NAS: AAPL) success in this area has been well documented, setting records by selling 15.4 million iPad 2s last quarter and following that up by selling 3 million of its new iPad in its first weekend alone. (NAS: AMZN) priced its Kindle Fire tablet at an aggressive price to gain share in the tablet space as well. By the end of last year, it had sold 5.5 million units, and it could already be manufacturing its next iteration of the Fire.

I'm not saying HP's dead in the water. The company is aware that it needs to address its issues, and soon. My question is simply, how? And that's a big part of why the company's stock is down 42.3% over the past year.

While companies such as Apple,, and Google have much of the "post PC" market under their control, there are plenty of other ways investors can play this big-ticket revolution. To highlight a few, the Fool recently issued a research report detailing three other companies that stand to benefit big time from this massive trend. Better yet, we made it completely free for our readers, so access your free copy today.

At the time thisarticle was published Andrew Tonner holds no financial position in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Corning, and Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Corning,, and Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't 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.

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