Talk about a trip that's happening just in the nick of time. Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) said that it has scheduled availability of the iPod mini for overseas markets for July 24. It's timely news considering investors recently took a slice out of Apple's stock price after it delayed the launch of this fall's version of what many view as the back-to-school-friendly iMac.

Back when Apple originally postponed its global mini revolution, iPod mania was at its peak. There was something to be said for the idea that tight supply might end up equaling some great PR. In other words, there was the possibility that lack of the coveted iPod could whip would-be customers into a great, big frenzy, which only that product would satisfy.

In a few short months, though, competition's continued to mount, both for digital music players and Internet-based downloading services. Last week, the iPod was attacked by clones from both Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Sony (NYSE:SNE), which offered everything from greater system memory to what amounted to a bounty for relinquished iPods. Roxio's (NASDAQ:ROXI) Napster is trying to offer up players for free in exchange for a year's worth of subscription-based loyalty in this budding industry.

Despite rivals' efforts, it's likely not yet time for alarm. I still feel that Apple, having spearheaded -- and cleverly marketed, including word-of-mouth buzz -- the whole notion of legal downloading, has carved out a serious advantage that will take a lot of effort on the part of rivals to uproot. After all, despite the intense rivalry in Europe, we recently learned that Apple's iTunes site had already shown promising signs of popularity there, with 800,000 song downloads completed within the first week of launch.

However, with the possibility that the concept could get trumped overseas given cheaper or more accessible rivals, the sooner the iPod mini launches, the better. Stay tuned to hear whether it will be iPod mini Mania, part deux, overseas.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned.