It all started in a California garage for Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), but there seems to be a lot more similarities lately.

No, HP CEO Mark Hurd isn't parading about in denim and a black mock turtleneck. But HP's acquisition this week of Melodeo -- the parent of cloud-based music streaming service nuTsie -- comes just six months after Apple nibbled in this niche with its purchase of Lala.

You don't find too many companies running into the burning building that digital music has become. Short of Apple's own success with iTunes, there aren't too many smiling faces here.

Music subscription services have been in a state of flux. Napster cashed out to Best Buy (NYSE: BBY). RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK) announced earlier this year that it would be spinning off Rhapsody. Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Zune Pass has been running around like an angry headless chicken for years.

Oh, and don't bother telling me that Apple shut down Lala last month. We both know Apple has big plans here. It didn't buy the site a few months ago to simply cast it in a Silicon Valley snuff film.

Apple and HP are buying small digital music sites because they know that they have the wingspan to widen the reach of the upstarts. These are good moves, and opportunistic net swoops.

More than music
Following Apple into the record store doesn't make HP a Cupertino wannabe. However, consider the delayed HP Slate tablet computer. Try on its gutsy $1.2 billion deal for Palm (Nasdaq: PALM) for size.

HP and Apple have been making desktops and laptops for ages, but now HP is following Apple into the realm of iPad and iPhone contenders.

Don't get me wrong. I don't believe that the Slate -- either as the original Windows-flavored model or the eventual Palm webOS version that will hit the market -- is going to kill the iPad. No matter what HP does with Palm's bread-and-butter smartphone business, it's not going to eat at iPhone the way that Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) open Android mobile operating system has in recent months.

However, HP isn't spending 10 figures on Palm -- and substantially less on Melodeo -- for kicks. HP wants to stand out with unique operating systems and entertainment services.

When HP grows up, it really, really, really wants to be Apple. Good luck trying to convince me otherwise.

Is HP really trying to be Apple Lite? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is starting to see more smartphone products creep into his home lately, but he does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.