Apple lines up major announcements for Monday conference

Apple Computer is expected to use Monday's scheduled press conference at its Cupertino HQ to make major announcements about changes to its sales and channel strategy, and moves more toward a direct sales model. Ostensibly the event is a product launch for the first three 'G3' Macintoshes, which are based around the PowerPC 750 chip and are the fastest desktop machines Apple has ever made. But Steve Jobs, Apple's interim CEO, has sent letters to influential figures asking them to attend to hear about 'important and exciting changes - not only to the product line, but to the way the company does business.'

Apple Computer is expected to use Monday's scheduled press conference at its Cupertino HQ to make major announcements about changes to its sales and channel strategy, and moves more toward a direct sales model.

Ostensibly the event is a product launch for the first three "G3" Macintoshes, which are based around the PowerPC 750 chip and are the fastest desktop machines Apple has ever made.

But Steve Jobs, Apple's interim CEO, has sent letters to influential figures asking them to attend to hear about "important and exciting changes - not only to the product line, but to the way the company does business."

All Apple and Claris employees have been told to attend, regardless of what shifts they are working. The event will feature Jobs and Mitch Mandich, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide sales.

Apple's Asia-Pacific chief Steve Vamos confirmed last week that he would be attending the event, and that there would be a product launch, but could not comment on the possibility of further announcements.

When Apple bought the Macintosh assets of former clonemaker Power Computing in September, Apple's CFO Fred Anderson said the company would be able to tap Power's management for its expertise in direct sales operations in an effort to create a broader mix of sales channels.

Over the past month Apple has made several changes to its sales model including trimming the number of US distributors and lowering the volume resellers are required to purchase on an annual basis.

Apple is under increasing pressure to increase sales and cut costs in its effort to return to profitability. Two weeks ago, Apple announced a US$161 million fourth-quarter loss.

Apple has already announced an agreement with CompUSA Inc. under which the computer retailer will devote more retail space to Apple products. CompUSA also plans to install Apple-stores within all of its 139 superstores around the country.

This week Apple said it would discontinue next month contracts with three wholesalers in the US leaving Ingram Micro of Santa Ana, California, and Microage of Tempe, Arizona, as Apple's only US wholesalers, effective December 1.

That move compliments "Apple's changing product sales and channel strategy and is designed to streamline inventory management, improve the customer experience, and increase advocacy for Apple and its products among its key distributors," the company said.

This week's moves follow changes to Apple's reseller buying policies announced in late September, also intended to reduce channel inventory and increase sales.

Under the new program, resellers buying directly from Apple will have to make a smaller minimum annual purchase of US$2 million beginning in December. Currently Apple dealers have to purchase $20 million while retailers have to buy $5 million worth of products annually, the company said.

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