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Where Dell walks, HP will not fear to tread. Where Apple goes too, for that matter. The PC giant is planning to launch its own online music service.

So says HP online shopping chief, Peter Appl, in a Reuters interview.

HP may launch the service next month at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show. A dedicated portable music player is expected to follow.

The company is also thought to be preparing flat-screen TV products, again a move already made by Dell and Gateway. The slow-down in the PC market, plus the way entertainment content has now effectively gone all-digital is persuading computer companies that they need to be consumer electronics players too.

The jury is still out as to whether they will succeed. Are their brands strong enough in the consumer space to face the likes of Sony, Philips, Panasonic, Pioneer, et al? And do they have the mindset to expand from a relatively young market into a very mature one?

Pace iPod, they all have a long way to go to prove themselves in the CE market. Certainly, CE companies seem to have a more successful time breaking into the computing space, than firms coming from the other direction. ®

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