Retailers expect Apple to launch its long-awaited consumer notebook computer and a new version of the multi-hued iMac computer at the Macworld Expo next month.
Retailers and industry sources who attended Apple's worldwide developers conference this month said Macworld will have a decidedly consumer feel in the hardware and software categories. Also, Apple may release information on the new G4 processor.
Geoff Westerfield, product manager for ComputerWare, an Apple specialty chain based in Sunnyvale, Calif., said, "It makes sense for the consumer portable, and there could be a new variant of the iMac, but nobody knows for sure."
Mark Miller, director of sales and marketing for MacCenter, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has heard nothing firm, but he also expects to see a consumer notebook.
Details on the consumer portable are not available from the company, but Apple founder and interim CEO Steve Jobs said at the Macworld in July 1998 that the company will roll out a consumer notebook in 1999. Apple had abandoned the consumer portable market two years ago.
Retailers have had a tough time discovering Apple's intentions prior to official product announcements. Since Jobs returned to Apple, security has been tightened to the point where even high-ranking Apple sales executives are kept in the dark concerning product details, a retailer said.
This veil of secrecy has led to some problems. Apple caught the retail community by surprise when it launched the strawberry, tangerine, blueberry, grape and lime colored iMacs in January. In addition, the company angered some retailers and disrupted inventory flow by requiring retailers to purchase five of each "flavor" each time they placed an order.
Best Buy dropped the iMac entirely from its product line earlier this year when Apple insisted the chain follow the purchasing guidelines. Sears has since picked up the line.
Westerfield said the purchasing mandate has been eased, and iMacs are ordered in bunches of eight: four blueberry models and one of each other color.
However, even the revamped buying requirement has meant that retailers are forced to blow out the poorly selling tangerine model at below cost from time to time, retailers said.
A better ratio, Westerfield suggested, would be three blueberry, two grape, and one each of the remaining three colors.
The developers' conference drew an estimated 2,700 software publishers, said Tony Violanti, VP of sales for ComputerTown, Salem, N.H. Violanti said this interest will result in even more games being developed for the Macintosh platform. Apple helped attract game makers by boosting the quality of the graphic cards featured in the iMac, he added.