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iPods to hit Target

Apple Computer plans to start selling its digital music players at Target stores, CNET News.com has learned.

Apple Computer plans to start selling its iPod digital music player at Target stores, CNET News.com has learned.

The Macintosh maker declined to comment on the move, but several Target stores confirmed that they had the devices--both the Mac and the Windows varieties--on hand. A corporate spokesperson for Target was not immediately available for comment.

The move broadens Apple's distribution of its popular MP3 music player in time for this year's holiday shopping season.

"It could sort of save the December quarter given the sorry state of home PC sales," said Needham analyst Charles Wolf, who owns Apple shares.

Wolf estimated that Apple might be able to sell as many as half a million of the devices this quarter, assuming that the company can grab about 15 percent of the world market for portable music players and that sales reach the 4 million units that some market researchers are projecting.

If so, Wolf said, Apple might be able to do better than its recent estimate that sales for the quarter would be "slightly up" from the preceding three-month period.

In September, Apple announced that electronics retailer Best Buy would carry the iPod. Adding Target is key for Apple, Wolf said, because the retail chain has more than twice as many locations as Best Buy.

"It's a hot chain," Wolf said of the discount retailer.

Unlike Macs, which appeal primarily to a niche of the PC market, the iPod appeals more broadly, Wolf said. As a result, it can sit on store shelves and doesn't require the kind of customer education typically needed to sell a Mac.

Assuming Apple is successful, Wolf hopes the company will follow the iPod with other digital devices. "I would hope it would make Apple more courageous in introducing other products in the digital arena," Wolf said.

Apple introduced the original 5GB iPod a year ago for the Mac only and has added 10GB and 20GB versions as well as the Windows models. Apple now sells the 5GB version for $299, the 10GB for $399 and the 20GB for $499.

Reports that Target might be carrying the iPod first surfaced on Mac rumor site Think Secret.