Apple drops online exclusives worldwide

Dealers in Japan and the UK are now carrying the Key Lime iBook and Pro Mouse as Apple races to cut inventories

Faced with a sales shortfall and mounting inventory worldwide, Apple Computer's overseas divisions are dropping online exclusives on most hardware offerings.

Following the lead of the company's headquarters, Apple Japan announced that local dealers are now carrying the Key Lime iBook and Pro Mouse, which were formerly available only from the company's online store.

While Apple UK did not make a formal announcement, both the consumer laptop and new optical mouse are reportedly available through dealers in the country.

Apple's Pro Keyboard is also now available through dealers in the UK, although not in Japan.

Meanwhile, however, Apple continues to limit overseas sales of the 500MHz Power Mac G4 Cube to its online store. Dealers in the UK speculated that Apple is retaining the Cube exclusive to enjoy increased sales following Apple's decision to offer a £250 (about $360) cash rebate on Cubes purchased with a monitor.

However, the owner of one major UK Mac reseller recently told MacUser UK magazine that he was "personally not bothered whether we get to supply the 500MHz Cube, as we've been struggling to get into double figures with sales of Cubes since they were launched".

Despite complaints worldwide from dealers who feel they are competing with the very company they are trying to promote, the dropping of online exclusives is apparently designed to boost hardware sales during a quarter that even Apple admits will be tough going because of higher-than-expected inventories.

Dealers who spoke to MacCentral on condition of anonymity said they welcomed the chance to sell the products that have up to now been off-limits. "I'll sell them," one dealer from Pennsylvania said. "I know they're doing this because they are in a financial bind and not because they are trying to be nice guys to us. We have complained consistently for two years about online exclusives, and Jeff Hansen [Apple senior director of channel sales and distribution] has done nothing to help us."

"If anyone thinks this is happening because independent dealers complained and they have suddenly found the error of their ways, they are living in a fantasy world," a dealer in North Carolina said. "This is a financial and business decision to help the company's bottom line, pure and simple."

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