Hewlett Packard is Back: Stock Price to Follow?

21st March 20086:01 am

March 21, 2008

I went shopping yesterday at Fry’s and online to replace my less than 2-year old Sony Vaio desktop PC after its very large and very unreliable hard drive went fully belly up, clunk, scrape, blue screen of death and all (yes, I was reasonably fully backed up, whew, and warning to the wise: these things do happen, although it is the first time it ever happened to me…)

Anyway, I was blown away, really quite impressed, and totally surprised to end up buying a Hewlett Packard PC, my first ever HP-PC. If my experience is common, I suspect it means HP will continue to gain market share.

I’ve owned pretty much every brand of PC, starting with an IBM, then one called Leading Edge, a Compaq, some clones, and at least two Sony’s, one of which was a pretty decent machine. But I never bought an HP which, for a variety of reasons, always seemed like an uncompelling alternative. In fact, back in 2001 I even panned the inept way HP merchandised their products.

This time around, I checked out all the usual suspects, DELL, Gateway, even ACER, both online and at the store. In both venues one thing was clear: HP’s more diverse and versatile product line stood head and shoulders above the competition. I haven’t paid much attention to this beat since around 2000-1 when I covered it pretty extensively for CNBC.com. But it seems pretty clear to me that in the time that has passed HP has leapfrogged the field.

I was dazzled by the choices and price points available at Fry’s. HP had a computer for every niche. And when I visited HP’s website it was much more user-friendly, intuitive and helpful than either Dell, Gateway or Acer’s. Flat out, the HP site did a much better job of quickly matching my needs with the right product at a great price. When I got stuck at one point I pushed a “call me” button on the site and about a minute later my phone rang with an HP salesperson on the other end, smart, who was able to rapidly guide me through the rest of the transaction. Even better, she already had my partial order in front of her when she called so closing the deal was a breeze.

As I say, I don’t cover tech stocks these days. And I have not looked all that closely at the company’s detailed financials other than noticing what looks like a pretty reasonable current and forward P/E. But, for what it’s worth, after I bought my new HP computer, I bought some of the company’s stock, too. HP is definitely back.

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