US computer maker Apple expects its new Birmingham store will be besieged by fans of the company's stylish machines when it opens its doors this evening.

The opening - at 6pm - will also mark the worldwide launch of the company's new operating system, called Tiger. It boasts more than 200 new features.

The Bullring store - Apple's second in the UK and Europe - is staffed by 36 experts, 34 from the West Midlands. The company is confident it can repeat the success of its first UK outlet in Regent Street, London.

When it opened for business last November, 12,000 people - some of whom had queued overnight - passed through the doors on the first day.

"We were blown away by the reception in Regent Street," said a spokeswoman yesterday. "We advise people to turn up early tonight - there are bound to be queues."

Apple has 100 stores in the US - the 100th opened last Saturday in Florida - plus three in Japan.

The Bullring store, which represents a "significant" investment for Apple, will be followed by a third outlet at the Blue Water shopping complex in Kent.

It features the full range of Apple Mac desktop and notebook computers, IPod music players and accessories.

Customers will be able to "test drive" everything on display and they can also visit the Genius Bar where they can get their questions answered by an expert.

Workshops - for the novice through to the professional - will take place and the store also boasts a rapid repair service.