The road to reinvention is often paved with quicksand. That's a sad truth that Gateway (NYSE:GTW) is learning as it struggles to become a brand integrator.

That Gateway expects to post an operating loss over the pivotal holiday quarter is not news. The company has been bleeding crimson for some time now. However, it had initially guided investors to expect the top line to come in between $925 million and $975 million, but is now looking to post fourth-quarter revenue of just $880 million.

This is Gateway's reality check. While it was right to back out of the personal computer wars better waged by the likes of Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), the high-end markets of plasma TVs and media center computing haven't proven to be an oasis.

And with hungry consumer electronics specialists like Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Circuit City (NYSE:CC) angling for market share in digital cameras and home theaters, it's not going to get any easier for a direct seller like Gateway. Yes, there are pricing advantages to the direct model, but often at the expense of a strong marketing presence at the grass roots level.

Of course, knocking Gateway must be done with balance sheet in hand. The company has preserved cash despite a dramatic makeover and perpetual deficits. With $1.1 billion in cash and short-term investments, that's nearly $3.40 a share right there. Investors may be impatient, sending shares lower on the slower-than-expected quarter, but Gateway's got enough quarters to keep feeding the meter for a long, long time.

Eventually, Gateway will get it right. When it does, times like this, when the stock is selling for little more than its liquidity, may seem awfully like opportunities in retrospect.

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