Apple goes direct

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Apple Computer disclosed its plans to sell Macintoshes directly via the World Wide Web, allowing buyers to custom configure machines. The Mac market is well-suited for direct sales: Customers, frustrated at lack of stock at local stores, long have bought Mac software applications through the mail, and mail-order Mac clonemakers did a brisk business till Apple this summer pulled the plug on Mac OS licensing.

Apple interim CEO Steven Jobs, unveiling the direct initiative Nov. 10, brashly announced Apple was taking on direct PC powerhouse Dell Computer Corp. But Dell operates in the mainstream Windows market, while Apple plays in a shrinking Macintosh niche. Apple's direct Web strategy has one obvious negative: Because Apple will sell Macs on the Web at list price so as not to undercut resellers, the online Macs may not be the bargain that customers have come to expect from low-margin direct sellers.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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