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Tech Industry

Mad for iMac

The company says pre-orders for the new computer, which hits stores Saturday, have surpassed the 150,000 mark.

Apple Computer continued preparations for the release of its iMac with a blitz of announcements, including early indications that there are large numbers of potential buyers waiting to plunk money down for the new computer.

The Cupertino-based company said today there are more than 150,000 advance orders for the iMac, which is due out on Saturday. Additionally, Apple said it has reached an exclusive deal for Internet service with Earthlink Networks, and touted the availability of new software titles and hardware devices for the Macintosh operating system that have been introduced since the iMac's unveiling in April.

"This is typical of Steve Jobs," said Mark Anderson, president of Strategic News Service, and an independent PC industry analyst, of today's flurry of marketing activity.

Announcing huge pre-orders should help contribute to the buying psychology surrounding the launch, and news of hundreds of new and upgraded software titles is designed to counter impressions that the Mac market lacks enough programs to run compared to Windows-based PCs. Apple's marketing seems to be on track, so far.

"If that figure [150,000 pre-orders] is right, it's a very good launch," Anderson noted.

Early retailer promotions like "Apple Demo Days," and iMac giveaways are being credited with the brisk pre-orders at stores like CompUSA, which began accepting orders a week ago. One promotion at CompUSA offered early iMac customers a coupon book redeemable for up to $800 in rebates on Mac software and hardware, although many of the coupons are for products that typical iMac users wouldn't buy or couldn't use with the iMac.

Clouding any news about brisk sales are comments that interim CEO Steve Jobs made in a New York Times interview after Apple's quarterly earnings, questioning whether Apple would be able to keep up with the demand for the iMac.

"We're going to make a lot of iMacs this quarter, (but) even making a lot, there's no way we will meet demand this quarter," Jobs told the New York Times. "We hope to meet demand next quarter. That's just the way it is when you have a hot product."

Such a scenario could be costly for Apple, Anderson warned, especially because of past have manufacturing problems with the PowerBook notebooks in 1995. "Historically, that's been Apple's biggest problem, it's been a real black eye," Anderson said. "There could be a backlash that would be very hard on Apple" if they don't meet, or come close to meeting, demand.

Apple also said today that Earthlink will be the exclusive iMac Internet access provider. Users will receive one month of Internet service free, but will not access any iMac-specific site through the new Apple computers, according to Earthlink.