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Windows Trips Up H-P's Giant 'iPad' Bet

Stocks in this article: HPQ AAPL MSFT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's an old vaudeville saw: For every two minutes of glamour, there's eight hours of pain and frustration. As Meg Whitman and Hewlett-Packard (H-PQ) try to add some Apple-like glamour to their song and dance, they'll probably tell you that ratio is about right.

Pretend for a sec you're Whitman, the top star at computer giant H-P. Since PCs and software are stuck in the dumps between commodity and free service, the future is clear: Do what Apple (AAPL) does -- develop some star power with a stylish, integrated software and hardware experience that consumers throng to.

The HP TouchSmart 9300 PC packs serious business punch -- including an Intel Core i7 processor and full terabyte of storage -- as well as touch-based controls.

Not surprisingly, H-P investors also want a piece of the Apple limelight. Whitman was peppered by such demands from shareholders this year at the company's annual conference. Even though H-P spends a billion dollars more per year than Apple on research and development, Macs succeed and H-P products don't. What up with that?

"Steve Jobs is the business genius of our generation," Whitman told a cranky shareholder, according to Business Insider's Julie Bort, who covered the event.

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Now, there is no doubt Whitman and H-P are trying hard at Apple box office draw. Take the HP TouchSmart 9300 PC (base price: $1,499). I've been giving one a demo for about a month, as well as talking with several H-P product managers about how this PC fits into the larger strategy.

"It's all about redefining what a computer really is," says Joe Marenin, product manager for the TouchSmart.

My takeaway? Grabbing some Apple glamour really is going to take some serious blood, sweat and tears. Here's why:

The 9300 is a decent business computer, but it's not yet an Apple "experience."

Called a business-class, touch-enabled all-in-one PC, the 9300 will be recognized by Apple users immediately. It's the iPad meets the iMac -- a giant touch-controlled screen, a keyboard and all the the bits of a computer all hidden inside a single box that sits on the desk.

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By no means is the 9300 shabby. The unit features a marvelous 23-inch diagonal display, which looks great and pivots easily, so it's always effortless to view. The techno guts are stuffed into a well-designed enclosure that is, at most, about 4 inches thick. And the thing packs serious business punch: an Intel Core i7 processor, a full terabyte of storage -- that's more power and space than you will ever need. Plus seven (count 'em!) USB 2.0 ports, a DVD drive and a fantastic keyboard, among many nice features.

But the actual business user experience? That is most definitely does not pack star power.

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