Apple's retail stores could snatch long-term market share, according to Apple senior vice president Ron Johnson.

Johnson was hired 18 months ago from Target Stores to help with Apple's retail operation. He told CNet that the company is targeting computer owners that have switched from Mac to PC - potential customers he describes as "low-hanging fruit".

He was coy about the total number of stores that will be opened, saying 25 would open this year but more were expected in the future.

Apple's ninth retail store - which opened Saturday on University Avenue, Palo Alto, California - is the first "store front", as opposed to being part of a shopping mall. Johnson said: "We want to learn how streets work, we know retail malls work."

Johnson denied that Apple's move to sell its own products would leave a bitter taste in reseller's mouths. "That won't happen", he said.