Apple opens online federal store

Company pushing into federal space and responding to feds' demand for online shopping

Responding to current customer feedback while also attempting to gain even more clients in the federal space, Apple Computer Inc. recently launched an online store for customers who have federally issued SmartPay credit cards.

"This is in response to overwhelming demand from our numerous SmartPay customers who wanted more choices in how they acquire products," said John MacKinnon, director of federal government sales for Apple. "An online shopping experience is something they wanted Apple to implement and we responded to that."

MacKinnon said the online store, which opened Aug. 17, had been in the works for the past "90 to 180 days" and is part of Apple's "aggressive growth"in the federal space during the past 18 months.

The site (applefederal.apple.com/store)will offer substantial discounts on Apple products to the company's federal clients, which include NASA, the National Institutes of Health and many Energy Department laboratories.

For example, a Power Mac G4 with an 867 MHz processor and other features is priced commercially at $2,499, while SmartPay customers can get the same machine for $2,249 at the online store, MacKinnon said.

"This is the result of good listening to our existing and potential customers to what we have to do to win that business," he said. "We hope it helps our customers and helps Apple as well."

Dell Computer Corp.'s Premier Pages, which are customized for different market segments, are the "gold standard" in this area, but Apple's online federal store is promising, said Roger Kay, director of client computing at IDC.

"It seems like it needs some adjusting — it's kind of a hodgepodge —but it's clear that they have got enough of an audience to merit a segment on their Web page," Kay said.

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