Apple has launched a build-to-order program where customers can order Macintosh computers made to their individual specifications over the Internet.
The site, launched in conjunction with the recent Macworld conference in New York, provides around 40,000 different configuration combinations for consumers who wish to buy customised systems online.
"We are convinced it can help sales because it will raise Apple's profile," said Apple's channel manager Kevin McElduff. "Customers can do the research on the Web, but they want to come into the stores and touch and feel the product."
Apple joins an increasing number of direct sales sites, as vendors rush to embrace online commerce.
McElduff said the transition to e-commerce is more about creating market awareness than channel cannibalism, citing anecdotal evidence of customers walking into retail stores with a computer printout of a machine they created from the Web site.
"The sensible reseller recognises that the company has to go with e-commerce or there will be no Apple at some stage," McElduff said. "We have to be there."
In the style of many Apple products, the site boasts an intuitive interface that makes it easy for customers to see what they are buying.
"It is a good marketing tool for us," McElduff said.