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Tech Industry

Apple readies iMac loan plan

Under a program expected to be announced soon, consumers can get their hands on the hot-selling Apples for about $30 a month.

Apple Computer will try to buttress sales of its popular iMac computer with a "loan" scheme for the holiday season, CNET News.com has learned.

The deal: For $29.95 a month, consumers can get their hands on the colorful, all-in-one desktop that has helped vault Apple back into respectability among computer makers.

For the fiscal quarter just ended, Apple's year-over-year unit shipment growth outpaced the industry average, thanks in large part to the iMac, the company has said.

To maintain sales, Apple will roll out in early November what is being characterized as a loan program that will allow consumers to get an iMac from computer resellers for $29.95 a month, sources told CNET News.com. The exact terms of the arrangement have not been disclosed yet, but sources are expecting that consumers will pay back the loan over a four- or five-year period.

Apple declined to comment.

Additionally, sources said Apple will offer a coupon book that has "significant discounts" on iMac peripherals such as the Imation USB floppy drive, Epson USB printers, and the Virtual PC software program, which allows Mac users to run Windows-based PC programs as well as other items.

Apple said it sold 278,000 of the computers in the six weeks since its mid-August introduction, and more importantly, about 29.4 percent were first-time computer buyers, the company has claimed.

Consumers who cannot afford to plop down $1,299 for a new computer are more likely to spring for one if offered the option of relatively low monthly payments, the thinking goes. First-time buyers especially are tentative about purchasing costly PCs, and the program could spark more to take the plunge.

Apple could be well positioned to get its second wind--the company also recently announced that it is adding retailer Best Buy to the list of retailers offering the system.

The move should also help maintain profitability. Normally, companies cut prices on systems as they age in order to stimulate demand. By selling Macs for $30 a month, the company makes the system easier to purchase while maintaining or even increasing profit margins.

Overall, such consumer-oriented financing programs are increasing in popularity in the PC industry.

With Apple's iMac program, consumers will own the systems outright, sources said. However, plan details could change by the rollout of the program, which is expected on November 2, one source noted.