Apple Launches 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, located at, which offers Macintosh-brand hardware and software directly to consumers and business customers.

The company unveiled the new site at its Macworld Expo in Tokyo this week. Apple's international sales have been declining in recent years, although the company reported an operating profit of $3 million from its Japanese business in fiscal 1998 after posting losses in the two previous years. Sales in Asia, including Japan, declined by 34 percent in 1998, compared with 1997, which the company attributed partly to the economic turmoil in the region.

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 mid-1999. 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 in 1999 as consumers replace older computers and the Japanese government offer incentives for businesses to make capital investments.

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.

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