Mac madness arrives Friday

Dealers to demo new gear in nationwide promotional extravaganza.

Dealers nationwide are preparing to greet the latest Apple wares with a series of special events scheduled for this weekend. Mac OS 9, iBooks, new iMacs and Power Mac G4 desktop systems will share the spotlight at midnight-madness sales on Friday, as well as extended hours and in-store promotions.

The new entry-level Blueberry iMac appears to be missing in action, however.

Apple is hosting Demo Days promotional events at retailers across the United States. Customers can attend demos at 283 Sears stores; 217 CompUSA outlets; 19 Fry's Electronics locations; and 14 MicroCenter outlets. Other stores planning Demo Days activities include J&R Electronics in New York and all 10 locations of ComputerWare, a Mac-only chain in the San Francisco Bay area. ComputerWare merchandising director Geoff Westerfield said stores will offer Mac OS 9 for $79.99 between 8 and 10 a.m. Saturday. The stores will also offer other specials that day, Westerfield said, including price reductions on upgrades and AppleWorks software.

Extra hours
During Demo Days, Apple consultants will be in stores for six hours each Saturday and Sunday, Apple said, to discuss Mac OS 9's features and show off the latest iMac and Power Mac systems. Apple also organized widespread Demo Days for the iMac's debut in August 1998 and the introduction of the consumer systems to Best Buy stores in November.

Meanwhile, some retailers are planning additional events of their own. Elite Computers & Software will host a midnight-madness party at its Cupertino, Calif., store to sell Mac OS 9 as well as Apple hardware.

Elite President Thomas Armes said the two-hour event will include four searchlights outside the store. Giveaways will include Mac OS 9 T-shirts and free copies of Symantec's Norton Utilities for the Mac for the first 90 customers who buy Mac OS 9.

"We have the iMac DV and iMac DV Special Edition in stock, as well as the older 333-MHz iMac in Blueberry and Grape for $894," Armes said. He said Apple representatives will attend the event at the store, which will showcase almost all of Apple's current products, including 333- and 400-MHz PowerBooks and new 350- and 400-MHz Power Mac G4 desktop systems. The store will stay open late and will be open on Sunday for the first time, Armes said.

Another midnight event will be held at the MacMall store in Santa Monica, Calif., according to Dan DeVries, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Torrance, Calif.-based Creative Computers Inc., which owns MacMall. In addition to the store, MacMall sells Apple products through its catalog and Web site.

The hour-and-a-half event at the MacMall store will include demos of Mac OS 9 as well as iBooks and the new iMac DV models, DeVries said.

"We're going to make sure we have the products in the store" this weekend, DeVries said. MacMall has "lots of advance orders for new iMacs" and the Santa Monica store "pulls a lot of entertainment folks from Los Angeles."

Missing in action
One item missing from MacMall's current lineup is the new low-end iMac, which DeVries said is not shipping until early November.

At the Salem, N.H., headquarters of Computer Town, assistant store manager Wayne Coco said demos of Mac OS 9 will go on sale and a Mac user-group representative will demonstrate the new software. The six-store chain may also run some specials on products, Coco said.

Although many stores will offer specials and events, at least two retailers are eschewing late-night demos or special events to mark this weekend's release of Apple products.

MACadam store manager Tom Santos said the San Francisco store will roll out Mac OS 9 and demonstrate the software as well as new iMacs and other hardware on Saturday. "We will stick with our regular hours; it doesn't make sense for us to stay open late," Santos said. At the Mac Center store in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., a salesman said there are no plans to offer additional demonstrations or specials this weekend.

In addition to events planned this weekend, Apple will also host Demo Days at retailers during the weekends of Nov. 13-14, Nov. 26-28, Dec. 4-5 and Dec. 11-12.

A searchable list of retailers that sell Apple products is available through Apple's online Resource Locator.