Apple Targeting Small Business Customers at Retail Stores

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is rolling out a new retail store program designed to appeal to small business customers, encouraging them to adopt the company's Mac platform for their operations. The program involves the hiring of engineers at a number of the company's retail stores to work with customers on designing business-focused systems.

The consumer electronics giant responsible for the iPhone is seeking to hire engineers in as many as a dozen U.S. retail stores to put together Apple-based computer systems for small businesses, according to recent job postings on Apple's website. The employees would implement computer systems for clients and are expected to be proficient in networking hardware and server platforms.

According to the report, Apple's retail stores will allow the company to reach out to small, local businesses with the program as opposed to traditional corporate programs targeting larger companies.

The Apple employees familiar with the new position said it was a natural progression of recent initiatives. Apple maintains a team at its headquarters to handle big companies and government agencies, but it has increasingly handed responsibility for small and mid-sized business accounts to its retail stores, the people said.

Apple has put an incentive program in place to manage the growth of these new business initiatives, they said, assigning new business sales staff based on revenue targets for each store.

The very first question posed to Apple executives on the company's earnings conference call earlier this week addressed the issue of business uptake of the company's products, traditionally a weak area for Apple. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook noted that while the iPhone and now the iPad are seeing significant uptake in at least big business, Macs continue to sell primarily to consumer and education channels. The company is, however, seeing "increasing interest" in the Mac on the part of businesses.

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