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An Apple for the teacher?

The Mac maker is quietly dishing out another rebate, offering repeat customers in the education field $100 off online purchases of at least $949.

    Apple Computer is quietly dishing out another rebate, this one aimed at repeat customers in the education field.

    Until Dec. 27, Apple is offering $100 off purchases of $949 or more made through Apple's Online Store for Education. The deal is limited to schools, teachers or students who made a recent order from the online store. The rebate is aimed at enticing those customers back for another purchase.

    Stung by slow sales, Apple has been using rebates and other promotions to try to reduce the 11 weeks worth of inventory it had entering the current quarter. Apple warned on Dec. 5 that its sales will fall below already-lowered estimates and push the company into the red for the first time in nearly three years. As part of the warning, Apple said it will take $135 million in charges to cover its various discounts.

    In October, Apple offered $200 rebates on its PowerBook notebooks and $300 on the combined purchase of a PowerMac G4 Cube and Apple-brand monitor. Last month, Apple kicked off rebates of up to $500 on its PowerMac G4 tower systems. Both of those rebates are good through the end of the year.

    Chief executive Steve Jobs has said that gaining back share in the education market is a priority for Apple, which lost its No. 1 position to Dell Computer last year. Jobs has also said he hopes to return Apple to a more normal six weeks worth of inventory by the end of the year.

    David Bailey, an analyst at Gerard Klauer Mattison, said Apple's attempts to improve sales are important, particularly considering that Apple is likely to update its product line at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco next month.

    "It's good that they are making these moves to be priced more aggressively," Bailey said. "It points out, though, that demand is (still) pretty weak. There hasn't been a rebound as the year comes to a close."