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Apple Stores Helping to Maul Microsoft

Apple stores, boosted by strong demand for iPads and Macs, are helping the tech giant intensify its assault on Microsoft.

CUPERTINO, Calif. (

TheStreet

) --

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report

stores, boosted by strong demand for

iPads

and Macs, are helping the tech giant intensify its assault on PC rival

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report

.

"The Apple stores continue to play a vital role in building the Apple brand -- indeed, they have become the face of Apple," explained Charlie Wolf, an analyst at Needham & Company, in a note released on Wednesday. "Through their array of post-sale services, the stores have become a magnet in attracting Windows users to the Mac platform."

Wolf explained that during the June quarter, Windows users purchased half of the 677,000 Macs sold in the stores. "This represented over 20% of the estimated number of Windows users who switched to a Mac during the quarter."

Windows users purchased half of the 606,000 Macs sold in the stores during Apple's prior quarter and Needham estimates that, since 2004,

more than 18 million Windows users have switched to a Mac.

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Apple stores have played a key role in this effort. "One of Apple's initial reasons for opening Apple stores was to spotlight the Mac, which had virtually no retail visibility," he said. "With an installed base that has more than doubled in the past five years, the Mac has gone mainstream with many consumer electronic chains now selling the Mac both here and abroad."

Total revenue from Apple stores grew 73% year-over-year to reach $2.58 billion during the company's recent

third-quarter

, thanks in no small part to the

iPad.

Apple recently announced that it had sold more than 3 million iPads since launching the technology in early April, and the device has undoubtedly

breathed new life

into the ailing tablet market.

Video: Apple iPad Owners: Elite vs. Ordinary >>

Analyst firm Forrester recently reported that iPad awareness is incredibly high. The firm found that only about 5% of U.S. online consumers said that they had never heard of the iPad, while three years after the launch of

Amazon's

(AMZN) - Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report

Kindle, some 25% of U.S. online consumers had never heard of the online retailer's e-book reader.

"Apple store revenues in June were greater than Apple's total quarterly revenues from the second quarter of fiscal 1996 through the fourth quarter of fiscal 2004," explained Wolf, in his note, citing "phenomenal" iPad demand.

The tech bellwether opened seven new Apple stores during the third quarter, bringing its total number of stores to 293. Apple's average revenue per store was $9 million, compared to $5.9 million in the year-ago quarter, and the company expects to open 24 additional stores this quarter.

Apple shares rose $1.50, or 0.57%, to $263.43 in early Wednesday trading, outpacing the broader uptick in tech stocks that saw the Nasdaq rise 0.48%.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York

Follow James Rogers on

Twitter.

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