Getting the mainland's price-conscious PC users to think differently will be a formidable challenge for Apple Computer. Apple is preparing to release its iMac PCs in the mainland, but it seems unlikely to stray from its niche market sectors. Most machines sold in the mainland - the fastest-growing PC market in Asia - are Windows-based. According to International Data Corp, Apple computers accounted for less than 1 per cent of the more than three million computer shipments to the mainland last year. Its share remained unchanged in the first half of this year, when 1.8 million PCs were shipped. IDC ranked the company 15th for PC sales by shipment. 'Worldwide, they are trying to focus on their key sectors, education and publishing. There's not much of a break in China on that strategy,' IDC analyst Dane Anderson said. Apple pioneered the PC in the 1970s, but suffered a slump a decade later when lower-cost Wintel (Windows software, Intel microprocessor) machines became popular. However, Apple recently staged a remarkable comeback in the United States thanks to new product lines, slick advertising, and a large community of Apple devotees. It has been able to appeal to performance PC users with powerful, top-line machines, and also to home users with its economical iMac, which sports an eye-catching blue clear case design. But Apple would need to take a different tack for mainland consumers, most of whom know of a PC only as a Wintel machine. 'In China, Intel has created quite a name for itself,' Mr Anderson said. 'Intel actually has strong recognition and Chinese are willing to pay a premium for Intel systems, more so than other markets.' The mainland's consumer PC market was 'small and extremely price sensitive', and Apple machines were sold typically at higher than average prices. Apple also lacked the large group of dedicated users from its heyday in the 1980s, as the mainland's PC industry 'started developing in the 1990s, so they don't get the added push of a local installed base', Mr Anderson said. Tony Li, Apple marketing director for China and Hong Kong, said the Apple brand name was well recognised in the mainland, where it sells the full line of Macintosh products. Its best-selling model in the mainland was the Power Macintosh G3, which was priced competitively to equivalent Windows-based PCs, he said. Apple targeted itself primarily to creative professionals, and so advertised primarily in trade publications aimed at publishers, advertising agencies, designers, multimedia production, and music production, Mr Li said. Apple also recently staged AppleWorld exhibitions in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu to demonstrate its product lines. Apple's main target, Mr Li said, would be to continue to expand into the creative market, and it hoped to gain customers after the iMac was released. He declined to name a launch date for the iMac in the mainland.