|Hot on the heals of this week's introduction of the new iMac 266 in five new colors, Apple has changed its MAP (Minimum Advertised Pricing) policies. TechWeb is reporting that Apple has lifted the restrictions, making it possible for retailers to set their own pricing for the machines.
This week Apple lowered the price of the original (Rev A and Rev B) iMacs to US$1049 while setting the price of the new iMac 266 at US$1199.
The Mac Observer Spin: The TechWeb story does not make clear, but it is likely that this refers only to the original iMacs so that dealers can blow out old inventory to make room for the new iMac 266. This is still likely to hurt smaller dealers however and is really a somewhat surprising move on Apple's part.
The MAP program is set up to try and level the playing field for large and small dealers. Large retailers can generally afford a relatively small profit on each machine sold because of their sales volume, while the opposite is true for mom-and-pop shops and other small retailers. Those that stick with MAP are offered incentives like marketing assistance and SPIFFs (small cash (usually) bonuses paid to employees for each unit sold). Apple has always vigorously defended its MAP program. When Best Buy violated MAP by pricing the iMac at US$999 shortly before Christmas, Apple was cited by off-the-record sources at Best Buy as pressuring Best Buy to raise the price to US$1099, something that both companies officially denied. The resulting outcry from retailers across the country was both loud and boisterous, including a lawsuit from CompUSA.
To summarize: The lifting of MAP restrictions on the iMac is most probably limited to the original (Rev A and Rev B) iMacs to facilitate clearing out old inventory. Look for some great deals from the national chains and some understandable grumbling from smaller retailers.
Apple spokespersons were not available as of this writing. The Mac Observer will update this story as more information becomes available.