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Apple introduces new Macintosh line for first-time buyers

By EVE TAHMINCIOGLU UPI Business Writer

NEW YORK -- Apple Computer Inc. Monday introduced a new line of Macintosh computers, targeted at first-time family buyers, to be sold through major retailers such as Sears and Dayton Hudson.

Apple's new Macintosh Performa line consists of three models that offer programs for parents to work with their school-age children, run a business or handle their own finances, said Bob Puette, president of Apple USA, a division of Apple Computer, which is headquartered in Cupertino, Calif.

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Puette said there was no suggested retail price for the new line, but he added Apple expects prices to range from $1,250 to $2,500.

'This is a faster way to do homework, manage family assets and run businesses,' Puette said.

Apple will market the new line through major retailers and not its traditional resellers because some consumers are gun-shy when it comes to computer stores, Puette said. 'First-time buyers don't buy in computer stores because they don't feel comfortable,' he said.

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The new computers were pilot-tested for 24 weeks in Sears Roebuck & Co., Silo, Office Depot and OfficeMax, said Keith Fox, vice president of consumer markets for Apple USA. He said the distribution now now been extended to Montgomery Ward, Circuit City, Dayton Hudson, Lechmere, Staples, Tops and Tandy's Incredible Universe.

Sears said it will offer the Performa line at its Brand Central and Office Center departments at 650 retail stores nationwide.

'The sales of Apple computers have exceeded our expectations literally since day one,' said Marty Hanaka, vice president of Sears Brand Central. 'We attribute this, in part, to Apple's reputation for quality and strong brand loyalty among its customers.'

Hanaka said, 'Today, more than ever, there are more customers in the marketplace that grew up with Apple in school or at work and these folks have an extraordinarily strong loyalty to Apple products.'

In over-the-counter trading, Apple's stock closed up $1.875 to $49.50 a share.

Apple is convinced that an untapped market of million of Americans is waiting to purchase the right computer that offers ease of use, Fox said.

'Research suggests more than half of the families in our target market have not yet found a computer solution compelling and flexible enough to meet their needs at home, though many have used a computer either at work or at school,' Fox said. 'Performa simplifies both the purchase decision and the buying process.'

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With the new computers, consumers can purchase a complete unit and plug it in, Fox said. The basic software already will be loaded into the system, he added.

'We believe the Performa offers the right combination of technology and support to appeal to the estimated 7 million American families which, research tells us, have the buying power but have not yet adopted a PC for their homes,' Fox said.

In addition to avoiding complicated systems, consumers do not want to bother with service, and thus Apple is offering 24-hour telephone support, Fox said. In addition, the new systems will come with one year of in-home service.

The three new systems -- 200, 400 and 600 -- are enhanced versions of Apple's System 7 operating system, said Didier Diaz, the head of desktop computer product marketing for Apple USA.

Each Performa is equipped with ready-to-run hardware, optimized system software and at least one integrated application that provides for word-pprocessing, spreadsheet, database, graphics and communications functions. All the systems use the Motorola 68030 microprocessor and feature Apple's 3.5-inch floppy disk drive that is capable of using disks from Windows, DOS and Apple II computers.

Both the Performa 200 and 400 come with four megabytes of random access memory and 80 megabytes hard-disk drives. The 600 model features 5 megabytes of random access memory and a 160-megabyte hard disk standard.

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'Performa gives you the full power of Macintosh and the ability to perform any home-based assignment, whether it's a spread sheet brought home from the office, a child's homework or entertainment for the whole family,' said Eric Harslem, vice president for desktop computing.

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