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In the Web world, before you can do anything you need a domain name to do it with. So what? Well, if you were to find out that Hewlett-Packard had just secured the domain name www.hppcdirect.com but there was, as yet, no material on it - could you draw any conclusions?

Yes, you could. HP started loosening its denials that it planned to sell direct at the end of last year, when it started pulling services back from its resellers. Following Dell's success, HP has obviously been busily preparing behind the scenes. Not only has it grabbed the hppcdirect URL, but also hpprintersdirect.com. Makes sense. But how far does it plan to go? Well what about the also recent acquisition of www.hpdirect.net. That's looks like a pretty likely umbrella site for all things direct selling.

We predict a huge autumn announcement. You know the sort of thing, big hall in New York, snappy catchphrase, lots of hullabaloo and Yanks with microphones stuck on their heads. Probably a new division too. Can't wait.

Talking of Dell, what can you learn from the following recently acquired URLs. 1) www.dellcredit.com, 2) www.dellcreditcard.com, 3) www.dellcreditcards.com. Here at The Register we put our heads together and after some heavy discussion decided that Dell might be planning to launch a credit card.

Dell has been looking a little ropey of late. Old Mikey boy was over in the UK recently and we had a chat with him. Never really a charismatic force, he spent most of the time criticising other companies over Windows 2000 driver delays and said nothing about future plans (bit of a wasted opportunity?). In fact, the only things to come out of Dell recently has been that it is embracing MP3 and Linux. But then who isn't?

In this context, a credit card looks like a good idea - trading and profiting on a name that still holds a lot of sway. Are we seeing a diversification policy as predictions over the future slump of the PC market mount? (It is claimed people will use phones, TVs etc to access the Internet. With apps expected to available over the Net, this makes the PC's future role somewhat obsolete - or that's how the thinking goes.)

As for Etrade, it has recently nabbed etrademortgage.com, etrademortgages.com and etradecheaper.com. Etrade is currently revamping its look - a current radio ad has the company's top man saying things like "I can't grow a beard to save my life" and "Sometimes I dream I'm a horse". Why? Because he believes in honesty of course. We reckon Etrade is going for an EasyJet Stelios approach - straightforward, cheap and touchy feely. Why not? But will that sort of branding work when it comes to getting a mortgage?

And that's all from the Web crystal ball this week. We note, by the way that www.microsofttwoparts.com, www.rambusindustrystandard.com and www.freeserveingoodhealth.com are all still available. ®

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