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Tuesday, June 05, 2007, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Apple retail preps for iPhone, 17-inch PBG4 defect, EU deadline

Major additions to Apple's retail stores for the iPhone will reportedly push the outlets to their limit. Also, the Mac maker is facing added pressure from owners of malfunctioning 17-inch PowerBooks at the same time as it gains relief from the European Union.

Apple stores face major iPhone upgrade

The June 29th launch of the iPhone will require far more work for employees at Apple's growing retail chain, according to new information obtained by ifo Apple Store.

Most retail additions involve clearing space for new demo units and familiarization training for the staff. But the iPhone, according to sources, will demand a far greater level of effort than the company's retail branch has known to date. Apple's policy of enabling every product feature is said to be carrying over to its first cellphone, demanding that each US store be laced with cellular signal repeaters to preserve phone call quality.

Moreover, the company has allegedly developed a brand new method of subscribing new customers to AT&T's phone service to ensure that the experience is far quicker than the often drawn-out process at most cellphone stores. The technique may involve bringing buyers to the Internet during the sign-up phase, the tip said.

The firm's signature Apple Geniuses will also be asked to expand their knowledge even further, providing not only first-hand troubleshooting but also tutorials for newcomers to the touchscreen phone's controls.

Campaign demands 17-inch PowerBook G4 screen repairs

A grassroots effort is underway that hopes to hold Apple responsible for what appears to be a systemic flaw in the screens of its last-generation, 17-inch PowerBook G4 computers.

The Free Repair Campaign notes that many of the PowerPC-based systems produced between March and April 2005 develop pixel-wide vertical lines that gradually render the display unusable. Problems with the screens only became clear in recent months as the flaw only tends to appear between 12 to 24 months after the display's manufacture date — forcing those without AppleCare to pay the full repair price.

A similar issue had crept up in Dell systems during a similar but larger period. The supporting evidence suggests both a wider problem and a potential solution for Apple, the campaigners said: the Windows PC builder has offered to not only replace affected screens free of charge but to compensate those who had already paid for out-of-warranty repairs.

Response from Apple have so far been far from ideal, however, triggering the organized publicity effort. The company has so far deleted whole threads from its support website and doesn't track the common complaints, preventing those who call Apple's technical help from pointing to other examples.

The Free Repair Campaign asks any affected PowerBook owner to contact Apple personally with their complaints.

EU grants extension on iTunes antitrust complaints

Apple on Tuesday was given roughly two more weeks to respond to complaints by the European Commission that its iTunes Store unfairly restricts song buying to customers' home countries, artificially lifting prices.

Although the company had let the June 4th deadline elapse, EC spokesman Neelie Kroes confirmed that Apple would now have until June 20th to formally respond to criticism of the anti-competitive behavior.

"Customers are unable to shop around... and buy from the iTunes store they would like to," said Kroes.

Apple could face fines as high as 10 percent of its annual global income if the Commission finds that the company has violated European antitrust rules.

Two California Apple retail stores opening this weekend

Finally, Apple's already large retail presence in its home state will expand further on June 9th.

Both Apple Store Fashion Fair in Fresno, as well as San Luis Obispo's Apple Store Baybrook, will open this Saturday at the firm's customary 10AM grand opening time.

The first thousand visitors to each store are promised an Apple T-shirt, while all visitors during the first month will also have an opportunity to win a grand prize that includes Apple's latest MacBook. In a relatively new addition, there will also be secondary prizes: ten winners at each store will win a year-long One to One membership for personalized Mac training.