Laptop Caper Leaves HP, States Clueless

Free laptops arrived on the desks of governors around the country, but nobody knows how they got there

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    "Dude, how can we convince marginal states to invest in netbooks?" "Send 'em some shady free samples!"

    While hackers and marketers might not meet at the same parties, one has to wonder if a pair of the above haven't been working to get state governments to buy Hewlett-Packard laptops.

    Seems computers branded by HP and subsidiary Compaq have been mysteriously appearing on the desks of public officials in the "W" states -- Washington, Wyoming, West Virginia and, well, okay, Vermont.

    Still, somebody with a sense of humor has been setting up the governors's offices with free machines bought and paid for in a transaction yet traced.

    With this much publicity, none of the machines would have the kind of resale value that a laundered iPod Shuffle might.

    Yet such rich gifts from an unkown source raises all sorts of questions, from identity theft to government-corporate fraud, that are sure to give the legislatures of the states in question legal indigestion.

    Jackson West figures some former temp knows more than they should, and good for them.