Apple Computer expects to grow its revenues by 40 per cent in Latin America in fiscal year 2000 - which begins in October 1999, a company executive said.

As part of its strategy, Apple is looking to strike up deals with Internet Service Providers in the region, that are interested in offering free PCs to potential subscribers, said Luis Zúñiga, the company's vice president and general manager for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Apple also plans to continue partnering with vendors of software and peripherals to offer users bundles of products, according to the executive.

"Apple is very optimistic about the growth opportunities in Latin America," said Zúñiga, who joined Apple in mid-July.

Apple's share of Latin America's PC shipments increased from 1.3 per cent in 1998, to 1.7 per cent in 1999, said Loren Loverde, a research manager at the Mountain View, California office of International Data's Latin America research unit.

Its PC shipments in Latin America grew 47 per cent in the first half of 1999, compared with the first half of 1998, Loverde said. Thus, Apple greatly outpaced the market's growth rate of 8 per cent for the first half of 1999, he added.

"The biggest factor is that now they've got the iMac, which Mac loyalists were waiting for. It's been a big commercial success in Latin America," Loverde said.

Currently, about 2 per cent of Apple's total revenues come from Latin America, a figure Zúñiga would like to increase to between 3 per cent and 5 per cent.

In terms of product rollouts, the company plans to begin shipping its latest machines in Latin America - the new iBook notebook and the Power Mac G4 - in the second half of October, Zúñiga said.

Releasing these new systems in October gets them to market in time for the fourth quarter spending spree, Loverde said.

"It will maintain their current momentum," Loverde added.

Apple, which has subsidiaries in Brazil and México, has no plans to open other offices in the region, since all its sales are made through resellers, Zúñiga said.

"For their current market, that's a reasonable strategy," IDC's Loverde said. "Apple is looking at expanding its channel partners now, where in past years they had been fairly conservative in that regard. So that's a positive sign of growth for Apple."

Some of its Latin American resellers are selling Apple products over the Internet, although Apple has no immediate plans to begin doing so itself, according to Zúñiga.

Apple is not planning to go head-to-head against Compaq Computer. Compaq is the undisputed leader of the region's PC market, with 23.6 per cent of the shipments in the second quarter, according to Dataquest figures. Apple plans instead to focus on the market segments where it’s strongest, such as education and publishing, Zúñiga said.

"We intend to maintain our focus on the market niches that differentiate us," Zúñiga said.