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Retailers Report Pre-Orders For iBook Are Strong

Apple retailers are not planning to create the same amount of fanfare for the iBook launch this month that accompanied the launch of the iMac last year, but most feel the consumer-oriented notebook will quickly sell out.

Last August retailers rolled out the red carpet for the iMac by holding midnight-madness sales, opening early, and giving away extras such as additional memory. While retailers are very enthusiastic about the iBook, most are planning a comparatively subdued launch, they said, because the number of interested consumers is smaller than that which clamored for the iMacs.

Apple had ignored the consumer segment of its business in the years prior to the iMac, creating a huge pent-up demand for an inexpensive, user-friendly system.

Mark Miller, sales and marketing director of MacCenter, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., said the hype surrounding the iBook's launch will be not reach the heights that occurred when the iMacs became available in August 1998, but will still be substantial.

"We have had a lot of calls for pre-orders, but these are not as brisk as they were for the iMac. But I feel this is because the audience is waiting for it to come in so they can see it," Miller said.

Apple would not give an exact ship date, but simply said the units should become available at the tail end of this month -- and retailers are saying they expect to receive the units at that time.

The initial rollout will contain tangerine and blueberry-colored iBooks with a 300MHz processor, 32MB of RAM, 24x CD-ROM drive, and USB. They can operate as part of a wireless home network and will carry a $1,599 suggested retail price.

The retailers expect their first allotment of iBooks to quickly sell out, and then the primary chore will be getting re-supplied.

Computer Town, Salem, N.H., is planning to give away computer backpack carrying cases, said VP of sales Tony Violanti, but other than that it is just taking preorders. To help boost interest the chain had an iBook on display in its Salem store on the last weekend in August.

ComputerWare, Sunnyvale, Calif., has not made any promotional plans yet, said Geof Westerfield the chain's product manager, but is likely to do something. "It won't be quite on the level of what was done for the iMac," he said.

Another difference between the iBook and iMac launch is Apple's lenient purchase requirements. When Apple introduced the multicolored line last January, retailers were required to purchase iMacs in blocks of 40, eight of each color, but Westerfield said that for the iBook retailers can order any number in any colors they choose.