Apple Computer's interim CEO Steve Jobs has promised that the company he founded is on its way back and will deliver very competitive and "awesome" products next year.
"Listen, we're going to kick ass," Jobs said during his keynote speech at the Seybold publishing conference.
Although short on product specifics Jobs repeatedly promised Apple will bring out technologically advanced products, to be available at lower prices, which in part will address the needs of home users.
"You are going to see price decreases from Apple," Jobs said speaking to a crowd of about 3,500 publishing professionals. In his speech Jobs described 12 actions taken by Apple's management in an effort to return the company to profitability.
Key to Apple's turnaround plan is continued focus on the two key markets, education and publishing, both areas in which the Macintosh continues to dominate.
Jobs' 12-item agenda includes the recent appointment of a board of directors which includes computer industry insiders, such as Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison, Intuit's CEO Bill Campbell and Jerry York, former chief financial officer of IBM and Chrysler and Jobs himself.
Jobs also mentioned the recent agreement with Microsoft which calls for closer collaboration between the two companies he Jobs claimed make up 100 percent of the desktop PC market.
Apple is weeding out its confusing product line to invest more energy in "the gems" in its portfolio, Jobs said, while generally making its products "a lot better."
How it will be done Jobs did not say.
Rhapsody, the new operating system under development at Apple, will not break with Apple's installed base and will not become a "brain transfer." Rather Apple over time will integrate Rhapsody with the Mac OS, Jobs said.
He also again defended his decision to do away with the Macintosh clone market, since clone makers were refusing to pay Apple higher royalty fees.
"We are not happy how it turned out, but we did what we had to do," Jobs said.
Apple's e-mate portable computer, now "for some reason only being sold to the education market," Jobs said, will next year also be offered to a wider audience, he said.
Jobs criticised Apple's past marketing, advertisement and distribution efforts and strategies as unproductive, promising radical changes in all areas.
He showed off Apple's newest television commercial, part of Apple's Think Different campaign that includes print and billboard adds, and uses black and white images of famous people - including Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Bob Dylan and Pablo Picasso - known to differ with mainstream thinking. The ads gained loud applause from the keynote audience.
Apple is also dedicating new marketing teams led by Jeff Martin to the design and publishing industry, will offer better color management capabilities including new color displays, attract more games developers to the Mac platform, and beef up its AppleScript, QuickTime and Web Objects development resources.
In addition Apple has made its key partners in the publishing industry Adobe, Macromedia and Quark part of the executive team, briefing the companies on "everything we're doing," Jobs said. In fact the CEOs of the companies joined Jobs on stage to declare their continued support for the Mac platform and for Jobs.
"Apple is getting back to basics again," said John Warnock, CEO of Adobe. "They're talking about customers again."
Jobs vowed that Apple will reconnect with its customers, a link the company "for some reason" has lost over the years, he said.
Finally, Jobs said Apple still has a lot of passionate, talented people with craftmenships on its payroll which Jobs credited for the turnaround spirit emerging at the company.
"I'm not turning Apple around," Jobs said. "It's the incredible people we have at Apple."
Jobs also said upcoming high end Macintosh machines built on faster PowerPC processors will outperform Windows-Pentium based systems by a 2-to-1 ratio. He also said that Windows NT servers are weak solutions for the publishing market as they lack color management, dynamic publishing and scripting capabilities.
Reaction in the audience was mostly optimistic, but users also said that Apple's focus on education and publishing is not going to be enough to sustain the company in the long run.
"They need to get into every market," said Fredrik Engquist, a systems manager at Skogs Grafiska Grupp of Malmo, Sweden, a pre-press company.
"Publishing is being brought down to lower levels within companies," said Riley Werts, systems manager at Graphics Four Inc. in Lenexa , Kansas. Werts added that more publishing work is being done by employees at all levels in a company most of which now do their work on PCs.
All users polled after the keynote said Apple's servers need to be as powerful as Windows NT-based servers for common publishing tasks such as raster image processing.
Apple, in Cupertino, California, can be reached on the World Wide Web at http://www.apple.com/.