SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Attention, shoppers: There's some unusual merchandise moving onto store shelves alongside television sets, power tools and children's clothes -- Apple computers.
In the latest move by computer manufacturers to take their wares to where people shop, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer Inc. has announced a deal with Sears to let the retail giant sell several models of Macintosh computers.
Apple's Macintoshes will initially sell in 70 Sears stores that have Office Center outlets.
For Apple, this is the first time since the home computer bust of the mid-1980s that it has sold its computers through a general retailer such as Sears.
For many consumers, however, the days of buying their computers in the sometimes intimidating atmosphere of a computer store are waning.
And in the process, analysts say, computers themselves may even get friendlier.
Until recently, personal computers have been sold almost exclusively at specialty computer stores. A growing number of consumers with some computer experience have started shopping for the best price -- typically at discount stores, computer industry analysts say.
"As computers continue to get more pervasive in society, more and more people are comfortable buying them with less support and less complexity," Van Baker, an analyst at InfoCorp in Santa Clara, Calif., said. As a result, sales at "mass merchandisers" -- stores from Sears to Wal-Mart to Price Club -- will account for 11 percent of all the personal computers sold in the U.S. this year, according to Dataquest of San Jose.
By 1995, nearly half the personal computers and related products will be purchased at mass merchants, office products dealers, warehouse clubs and computer super stores, according to Merrin Information Services of Palo Alto.