Apple Computer New Zealand has passed more than 500 back orders for the new iBook portable Macintosh - before even announcing a price for the device.
The recommended retail price of $3795 is officially announced today. The computer, which comes in either tangerine and white or blueberry and white, will ship with only 32Mb of RAM, but retailers can be expected to add extra memory to compete for customers, as they have with the iMac. The price is higher than had been been hoped - a result of last-minute technical decisions by Apple (including a more expensive screen than that in early prototypes) and exchange rate volatility.
General manager Paul Johnston, who travelled to Macworld Expo in New York last week for the launch of the iBook, says the company is also waiting on substantial orders from "a number of key sites".
"The big surprise to me straight off has been the interest from retail," says Johnston. "We knew education was very interested, but retailers have already whacked in very large orders.
"We've also had a number of enquiries from PC dealers asking if they'll be able to sell the iBook - but we'll be sticking with our existing channel for the time being."
Although New Zealand will get its first stock in the second week of October, Johnston says he does not expect to be out of back order until early December.
The company is still waiting on pricing for the components that provide the iBook's groundbreaking AirPort wireless networking ability - a card that slots into the bottom of the computer and a flying saucer-like base station able to provide wireless IP networking to up to 10 iBooks.
Lucent, with whom Apple has worked on the wireless feature for the past 18 months, announced at Macworld that it has a high-end base station able to handle 100 clients inside a radius of 150m. Individual iBooks can also "talk" directly to each other.
Johnston says he has also been making enquiries about Akamai, the Massachussetts-based company that, Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs revealed in his Macworld keynote, has built an Internet rebroadcast network of 900 servers to support Apple's QuickTime TV streaming services, for which content partners include BBC World, ABCNews, ESPN and Disney. Although there is yet no Akamai local server in New Zealand, the company has installed one in Australia.