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First shipments in August

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So, when is the much hyped Apple iMac-based notebook going to make it onto the shelves? Apple won't say, but its OEM is a little looser of lip with the information. Taiwanese manufacturer Alpha Top -- for it is they -- says it plans an initial shipment of iMac notebooks in August. Named as the exclusive manufacturer in Q4 of 1998 when the notebook follow up was first planned, Alpha Top initially expected to launch in April. Deadlines were pushed back because product development took longer than expected. Alpha expects to ship 200,000 units by the end of 1999, equating to sales of $375 million, which should rescue it from a debt it has carried since it separated from GVC in 1997. Getting the price right is the key to success for Apple, according to IDC research analyst Terry Ernest-Jones. "The consumer notebook market is virtually insignificant in Europe, because of the high price differential between notebooks and desktops. If Apple price it reasonably, say in the same bracket as a high-end desktop, then there is definitely space in the market for it." However, the iMac showed that if a product is designed right, it will sell to a much wider market than usual. There was even a mention of the iMac in Elle, the fashion magazine. Can the notebook, possibly named iBook, pull off the same stunt? Ernest-Jones thinks it could. "Notebooks are much more personal than desktops to begin with, which should work in Apple's favour." Alpha Top plans to do a short test run in early July. As and when Apple grants its approval, mass production can begin, and fashion editors across the globe will be queuing up to get their hands on an iBook. Or whatever its going to be called. ®

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