Apple yesterday confirmed months of speculation by announcing plans to open high-street Apple Stores across the US.

The first two stores will open this Saturday in Tysons Corner, McLean, Virginia and the Glendale Galleria, Glendale, California – a total of 25 stores is expected by the end of this year.

More stores will open in: Los Angeles, California; Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; and in other areas. Rumours still hint at more stores next year.

Educating the people Apple is bringing its brand to the masses, overcoming ignorance by placing its own highly trained salespeople at the sharp end of its retail strategy.

As well as demonstrating all available Macs and Apple's own software solutions - such as iMovie, iTunes and Mac OS X - third-party products will be demonstrated and sold at the stores.

Discussing Apple's worst-kept secret, Apple CEO Steve Jobs enthused: "The Apple Stores offer an amazing new way to buy a computer. Rather than just hear about megahertz and megabytes, customers can now learn and experience the things they can actually do with a computer."

In the Zones The stores are split into a number of different areas, to help prospective customers find what they need. As well as the Products Zone - split in to Home and Pro - there are the Solutions, Genius Bar, Software, Etcetera and Theatre areas.

Apple says Solutions will be "four separate sections allowing customers to explore the latest digital-lifestyle solutions".

The company added: "These areas show you how to get the most from your Mac - from making desktop movies, to putting your entire music library on a Mac, and burning custom music-CDs with your favourite songs.

"Kids can explore the latest education software and games while you shop. Solutions also carries a wide assortment of the best third-party camcorders, cameras, MP3 Players, and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants)."

Pure Genius The Genius Bar will be a focal point for Mac-related advice from well-versed Macintosh users, with a telephone hotline to Apple's support. The Theatre will be an area with a large screen, where prospective customers will be able to enjoy demonstrations of Apple's solutions.

The stores' Software area will be stocked with over 300 software and education titles. There are also plans to run demonstrations of third-party applications, including Microsoft Office 2001 and Adobe Photoshop 6.0. Apple claims its stores will carry inventory for every Apple and third-party product, to guarantee constant supplies.

Key third-party products will be housed in the Etcetera area, including printers, scanners, tablets, cables, paper, ink and other accessories.

The next wave of locations are expected to open 6-8 weeks after the first stores open. Thereafter, a new store is expected every ten days or so.