MACWORLD - Jobs: Apple's 'i' products a business boon

The growing line of 'i' products from Apple Computer Inc. is helping the company lure customers away from Windows to the Mac platform, Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs said Monday at the opening of Macworld Expo here.

Jobs offered evidence of strong sales and customer migration to its products during a keynote address in which he highlighted customer reaction to Apple's new consumer devices, including its digital music players and PCs. That reaction bodes well for newly announced products such as the flat-panel iMac, Jobs said, citing company figures. The flat-panel iMac debuted Monday at the show.

Apple's portable digital audio player iPod, released Oct. 23, has been the brightest spot in the product line, Jobs said. During the 60 days before Dec. 31, Apple sold 125,000 iPods, he said.

"We have been thrilled with the response," Jobs said.

Apple's retail stores have also taken off in their first few months of operation, even as worldwide PC sales tread water. The company had promised 25 of the retail stores by the end of 2001, but opened 27 around the U.S.

That sales method has won Mac converts, Jobs said, citing internal figures finding that 40 percent of PCs and laptops sold at the stores were purchased by people who didn't own a Mac.

"We are thrilled with this number and we see it climbing as time goes on," he said. Apple plans to boost its business by luring new Mac users away from Microsoft Corp.'s Windows, he said.

About 800,000 people visited the stores in December, Jobs said.

Jobs also used his keynote to plug one of the company's newest major customers. The state of Maine has signed a deal with Apple to equip each of its seventh- and eighth-grade students and teachers with a networked, wireless portable computer. In one of Apple's largest education deals yet, Maine has agreed to buy 36,000 iBook laptops for the students and teachers.

"We look at this as one down, 49 to go," Jobs said, referring to the remaining U.S. states.

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