Apple Debuts Web Site in Japan

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Apple Computer Inc., Cupertino, CA, has opened its Japanese version of its online e-commerce vehicle, The Apple Store (, following on the heels of its successful introduction of the iMac personal computer.

Apple's move comes amid increasing competition in the direct marketing channel in Japan, as rivals Compaq Computer Corp. and Gateway 2000 Inc. both recently have announced plans to boost their direct-to-consumer marketing efforts in that country.

Earlier this year, Compaq's Japanese subsidiary said it would begin offering personal computers and servers to businesses through the Internet and direct mail catalogs by midyear. And Gateway 2000 Japan Inc., which posted a 60-percent gain in its sales in Japan in 1998, recently said it expected to post similar gains this year as consumers replace older computers and the Japanese government offers incentives for businesses to make capital investments.

Lou Mazzucchelli, an analyst at Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co., New York, said Apple's introduction of the iMac in Japan has been a tremendous boon to the company.

"Retailers have embraced it, and consumers seem to love it," he said of the esthetically designed PC.

Since launching an online sales venue in the United States in 1997, Apple has opened e-commerce venues in the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Australia.

Apple did not return phone calls seeking comment on its online sales, but Mazzucchelli said he has heard reports that the company is tallying as much as $1 million a day through its Web sites.

Apple's Japanese sales have been recovering slightly after a difficult year for PC makers during the country's economic malaise. The company reported an operating profit of $3 million from its Japanese business in fiscal 1998 after posting losses in the two previous years.

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