September 2, 1998 5:55 PM PDT

New iMac sales still hot

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SAN FRANCISCO--Apple Computer interim CEO Steve Jobs offered an update on iMac sales yesterday at the Seybold conference here, noting that the company hasn't yet caught up with U.S. demand and that the curvy computer can't be found in Japan.

Jobs noted that the iMac was just launched this past weekend in the world's second-biggest computer market, and that it already had sold out there for the quarter that ends September 26. Stateside, he added that demand continues apace.

Lou Mazzuchelli, a financial analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison, said he has even revised his sales forecast up to 450,000 units from 350,000 by the end of the next quarter (Apple's first fiscal quarter of 1999), and expects the company to sell 250,000 units for the current quarter, which puts the iMac on pace to be Apple's most successful product launch ever.

More evidence of a surge in appeal of Apple computers: Paul Ramirez, vice president of marketing at Computerware said the company sold 1,240 iMacs from August 15 through August 31, and sold 1,837 units for the whole month. This compares with 500 units sold all of August, 1997.

While most content publishers in attendance were more interested in the high-powered G3 notebooks Apple launched, the iMac is a key product in the company's attempt to maintain profitability and grow the installed base of Macintosh users.

"We have had a phenomenal response to this product. We've not been able to keep See special report:
Apple's gambit up with demand; we're shipping tens of thousands [of iMacs] a week," Jobs said. The iMac is set to launch in Europe over during the next two weeks.

However, it's not surprising that supply in Japan is quite constrained--even more so than in the United States--because systems are reportedly being shipped there only after American demand has been fulfilled. It may not be such a stirring victory to have sold out already. Nevertheless, the market is Apple's second largest, and strong demand should shore up Apple's sagging Asian sales figures.

The new iMac went on sale in the United States on August 15 and has been a hot-selling item at retail stores and catalog vendors, which have been reporting they are selling out systems as soon as new inventory comes in. Two weeks after the product's launch, the initial flurry of iMac sales are starting to taper off somewhat, but resellers are still basking in the afterglow of a positive attitude toward the Mac maker's viability.

"We've seen sales growth across Apple's product line because of interest behind the iMac," said Mike France, president of MacCenter, Florida's largest Mac-only retailer. He added store traffic is still up 60 percent over the previous month.

A large CompUSA dealer in Sunnyvale, California, said that it gets 20 to 30 systems in every other day and still sells out quickly.

Apple could be closing in on filling the nearly 150,000 back orders it said it had. Some large resellers have nearly cleared out their list of back orders and are close to the point where they will have systems in stock. Also, some smaller, lesser-known retailers and resellers have significant iMac stock.

To sustain its rapid sales rate, Apple will have to ensure that USB peripherals for the iMac start to show up in force. After the initial wave of highly enthusiastic customers, prospective buyers have been hesitant to buy an iMac because they are having a hard time finding devices such as USB-ready printers, according to industry sources.

 

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