Once more, Apple searches for a CEO - and a strategy

Last year, Apple Computer's new chief executive, Gil Amelio, held a company meeting to rally the employees. At the gathering on Apple's campus in Cupertino, California, the hats and bumper stickers that were passed out read, 'I was there when the comeback began - July 22, 1996.' Almost a year later, Apple's comeback has yet to arrive. And last week, Amelio and chief technology officer Ellen Hancock joined the more than 4,100 former Apple employees who can wear their hats out the door.

Last year, Apple Computer's new chief executive, Gil Amelio, held a company meeting to rally the employees.

At the gathering on Apple's campus in Cupertino, California, the hats and bumper stickers that were passed out read, "I was there when the comeback began -- July 22, 1996."

Almost a year later, Apple's comeback has yet to arrive. And last week, Amelio and chief technology officer Ellen Hancock joined the more than 4,100 former Apple employees who can wear their hats out the door.

Amelio and Hancock resigned from their positions because the company's board has not been happy with Apple's recent financial performance, the company said.

Amelio, a former board member who was hired as CEO in February, 1996, led Apple's US$400-million purchase of Next Software from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and devised the strategy to merge the two OSes into the company's forthcoming OS, code-named Rhapsody.

With Amelio gone, Jobs will have an expanded role in the company, focusing on product strategies, marketing and sales strategies, and business partnerships.

Fred Anderson, executive vice president and chief financial officer, will oversee day-to-day operation during the CEO search.

Users, developers, and analysts have mixed reactions to the executives' departures, but no one seems surprised by the news.

"[Apple's] current business model ... doesn't make sense. The point is to get profitable, not necessarily to grow," says Kimball Brown, an analyst with Dataquest.

Brown said Apple needs to embrace its OS licensees to help it develop the market, even if that leaves Apple with a smaller share.

"The Macintosh market isn't shrinking; Apple is shrinking," Brown says.

The MacOS is still relevant to many corporate users, but not necessarily to the IS department itself.

"If Apple shut down today, we could get by without it," says Michael Lawrence, a systems analyst at Loyola University, in Chicago. "Macintosh is not critical to us as a technology. We tolerate it, but our choice would be for users to move to Wintel."

John Warnock, chief executive at Adobe Systems, in San Jose, California, says that last year, for the first time, Macintosh accounted for less than half of his firm's revenues. He says most Adobe sales to Macintosh users are upgrades, not first-time buys.

But most current users remain loyal.

"The MacOS is never going to go away," says Ann Wrixon, executive director of BMUG, Apple's largest user group, based in Berkeley, California.

"But news like this every couple of months doesn't help," Wrixon said.

Apple Computer Inc. can be reached at http://www.apple.com/.

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