Apple resellers can rest easy - speculation that Apple is moving to direct sales is unfounded, according to Apple New Zealand general manager Zane Hall.
A number of developments have fed speculation of a move to direct sales in the past two weeks. These include the announcement by Apple's Asia-Pacific head Steve Vamos of a move towards a build-to-order model at Apple's Singapore plant; comments by Apple CFO Fred Anderson that Apple could, if it wanted, emulate Dell's leading-edge sales Website (built with the Apple-owned WebObjects); and Apple's acqusition of Power Computing staff and its customer database.
Apple will market direct to the Power Computing customers "to bring them back into the Apple family," Hall says. "But it's not our intention to pick up a direct model at all. Like everyone, we're running a Website, and that may generate sales, but they'll be transitioned back into the channel. It won't act directly through Apple Australia or Apple New Zealand."
Datamatic, which is owned by the same Singapore company as Renaissance, of which Apple New Zealand is part, was Power Computing distributor until Apple bought Power's assets.
Hall describes the idea of Datamatic becoming a second Apple channel - floated by Datamatic's John Forster last week - as "not a possibility at all. The agreement we have is until the end of this millenium, so if there's any renegotiating it would happen then. But there's no indication that Apple would want two distributors in a country as small as New Zealand."
It is likely that Umax - the only company to have so far survived Apple's licensing putsch by opting for a low-end niche - will stay in the local market.
"Whatever happens at Umax headquarters will happen locally," says Hall. "What they don't have is the right to distribute MacOS 8 on the CHRP platform. They'll move forward on bundling MacOS 8 strictly under the current licensing agreement with Apple."
Hall welcomes the reabsorbtion of the Newton division back in Apple, along with a new emphasis on the Emate 300. An Emate "with a bit more functionality and a bit more expandability" could be an ideal network computer, he says "and we could bring it to market for under $1000. It's an exciting part of the business."