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Thursday, April 19, 2007, 09:00 pm PT (12:00 am ET)

Target stores to pick up Apple TV

Big-box retailer Target is poised to become the next third-party retailer to market Apple Inc.'s new Apple TV device at its brick-and-mortar retail stores, AppleInsider has learned.

The bullseye-themed shop will join Best Buy, which agreed to carry the inaugural Apple living room device at all of its locations just last month. Units have also popped up at various Circuit City and CompUSA stores.

People familiar with Target's plans say units should turn up in official capacity at several locations by month's end, exploiting the monthly rollover (or electronics department "reset") to establish a presence. Like Apple's own retail stores, Target will reportedly equip at least some locations with a full-blown demonstration unit hooked up to a widescreen HDTV, showcasing the product for shoppers unfamiliar with its concept.

It's unclear at this time how many of Target's 1488 stores plan to carry the Apple media system or, similarly, the size of the merchant's commitment to flashy showfloor display units. A representative for the retailer declined to comment on the report after conferring with Target's "internal partners."

While undoubtedly welcome as another means of exposing newcomers to its 40GB wireless media streamer, Apple's move into Target may initially see slow results. Although the device sat atop the online Apple Store's charts on launch, it has remained on the trailing edge of the top seller list ever since.

Apple TV has been lauded as the next TiVo replacement in the press. At the same time, however, checks with Best Buy reveal that the No. 1 U.S. electronics retailer's own foray into Apple TV sales has turned up a relatively low level of interest from shoppers thus far — in some cases leaving stores with the majority of their initial allotments.

"We did receive three Apple TV's, and still have the same three," said a contact within one Best Buy store. "Not selling too well at our store."

The gradual cooling of pent-up demand combined with early third-party indicators foretells considerable challenges not just for Target but for Apple itself, the latter of which has had trouble persuading those outside its core fan base that the $299 unit has value even in the wake of a new TV ad campaign.

On the other hand, the mediocre adoption rate of Apple TV at Best Buy is unlikely to represent overall demand. A more telling indicator of early customer appreciation is expected on April 25th, when Apple is likely to hint at sales tallies via the company's direct channels as part of its fiscal second quarter report.

Target currently markets Apple TV only through its online store.