The small step Apple Computer took this week when it formally announced a first quarter profit of US$47 million is viewed by many Apple board members and executives as evidence Steve Jobs should stay in the company's top spot, officials said.
In interviews and a press event at last week's MacWorld in San Francisco, officials said they have tried to keep Jobs on as chief executive officer of the financially-troubled company.
"We have the best CEO in the world at Apple right now," said Apple board member Larry Ellison, chairman and CEO of Oracle, in an interview last week. "Steve is the right guy to run Apple -- from a knowledge, experience, compassion, intellect and metabolism standpoint."
Co-founder of Apple along with Steve Wozniak, Jobs was forced out of the company in 1985 and founded Next Software Inc. Following Apple's December 1996 acquisition of Next for US$400 million, Jobs returned to Apple in an advisory capacity. He has been serving as the company's interim CEO since September of last year.
Jobs took the interim CEO post after former Apple Chairman and CEO Gilbert Amelio was ousted from the company in July of last year. The charismatic but volatile Jobs has maintained that he will help set the company up for a turnaround, assist in choosing a permanent CEO, but probably won't stay on managing the company.
Ellison said the company's board has tried to make Jobs change his mind.
"We tried begging, bribing, everything," Ellison said. "This is not subtle, we have gotten on our knees collectively on this."
Several members of Apple's executive committee acknowledged last week that they would like Jobs to stay on and admitted that finding a replacement has been difficult.
Finding a new CEO has "not been as easy a search as we all thought back in July and August," said Fred Anderson, chief financial officer of Apple at the preliminary announcement of Apple's US$45 million profit last week.
Anderson and other officials explained that the executive committee did not think a new CEO, when found, would stray from the recovery strategy Jobs has set in motion. Jobs' rescue plan for Apple includes cutting costs and ending the company's cloning agreements.
"One thing Apple does not need is another 180 degree shift in strategy." Anderson said. "We don't need another strategy du jour."
Ellison, who calls Jobs his "best friend," said the Apple board considered a CEO candidate from computer and peripheral maker Hewlett-Packard Co. He refused to identify the HP official concerned.
Although the Hewlett-Packard executive would have been a "first-rate CEO," Ellison said, "there is a difference between a first-rate CEO and Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs is better than a first-rate CEO. There is no one who can fill Steve's shoes, there is no one."