Apple Japan continues its aggressive strategy to boost sales in the territory – a region considered by many as being the barometer of the IT industry.

The company is increasing staffing levels in its direct sales division from 20 to 50-60 workers, claims Nikkei Electronics Asia Online. The new staff will focus on the higher education and digital content markets – which, says the report, Japanese distributors have been "unable to adequately cover, due to swelling costs."

The company recently secured an order for 1,200 Macs from the University of Tokyo.

It is a change in sales strategy for the company, which has relied on third-party resellers to make sales in Japan so far. The report says that this strategy has meant that "sales volume has been hurt by the fact that the bulk of the customers have been individuals".

In May, Apple also announced a plan to open its first non-US retail store in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district. At present, this outlet is expected to open for business in "early 2004", according to the company.

Industry sources also posit the likelihood of Apple launching its iTunes Music Store for Japan. They point out that the company would benefit from the need to negotiate deals only with five major labels to launch this service. A Japanese service could potentially grab a slice of the world's second biggest music market, worth in excess of £5 billion in sales each year.