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iMac sales stay strong

MacMall and other retailers report continuing record levels of interest in the much-hyped new computer.

Apple Computer's iMac has been available for little over a week now, but retailers report continuing record levels of interest in the much-hyped new system.

MacMall, a division of Creative Computers, said it has received more than $4 million in orders for the iMac, which translates into more than 3,000 units at the system's $1,299 list price.

Creative Computer said the sales represent the company's largest ever dollar volume for a computer at launch. And the company isn't the only reseller experiencing a significant boost in sales.

Sales at ComputerWare, one of the nation's largest Mac-only dealers, has continued at a rapid clip. The company sold more than 400 iMacs on the weekend of the August 15 launch and more than 900 iMacs to date, said Paul Ramirez, vice president of marketing for ComputerWare. Another 350 systems are on backorder.

During the first weekend of availability, CompUSA in Santa Clara, California, sold most of its 100-odd systems in the first few hours. Last week, Jim Halpin, CompUSA president and CEO said "The iMac has been the biggest computer launch we've seen in our history." The company has not yet offered specific sales numbers to back up its claims.

Moving into the second week of sales for what is arguably Apple's most significant product launch in years, it still appears that Apple is close to keeping pace with demand of the iMac while avoiding past mistakes.

"Apple is not building to phantom orders. That happens to every manufacturer sometimes," noted ComputerWare's Ramirez, but Apple is checking to see if orders are still "real" orders and not orders that have been cancelled--a situation that in the past has led to massive over production. "Even in the midst of a binge, Apple is being responsible about how they are managing distribution. It's a sign somebody has their hand on the helm," Ramirez said.

Steve Jobs, Apple's interim chief executive, estimates that there are 16 million customers that could potentially buy new Macs but have been reluctant to do so because of questions about the company's viability and the lack of a compelling product.

The iMac is the company's response to such concerns, and also fills a big hole in Apple's PC lineup: This is the first new full-blown Macintosh consumer system in over a year.

For Creative Computers, strong sales of the iMac could reverse a long downward slide in Mac sales at the nation's second largest Mac catalog and online operation.

In the quarter completed July 28, 1998, the company reported that Apple-brand Macintosh sales declined 10 percent over the same period a year ago, while Windows-based PC sales at operations such as PC Mall increased 121 percent in the same period.

Creative Computers record number of iMac orders should help revenue growth, but its not yet clear how much the sales will contribute to profits. MacMall is bundling extra memory with its systems which could cut into profits. Some resellers who have spoken with CNET News.com said that after throwing in additional software and memory as incentives to buy an iMac, there's only a profit of about $10 off each unit.

Creative Computers is going to target the iMac at the PC market too, by including it in their PC Mall catalog, said Dan DeVries, executive vice president of sales and marketing. "We think this is going to sell very well [to] a certain type of PC customer who may be interested in the iMac," DeVries said. (Check CNET's Shopper.com for iMac pricing.)