Jobs runs with bulls at staff rally

Apple chief says the company is still on track to turn a modest profit for second quarter. 'We can't relax', he tells staffers in closed-door meeting

In his latest all-hands meeting with Apple Computer staff on Thursday morning, chief executive Steve Jobs pledged to continue fighting for Mac market share and reiterated the company's predictions of a small profit in the fiscal second quarter.

"We don't 'own' any market," Jobs said. "We're going to keep fighting for customers. We can't relax: there are three other big companies that will gladly take them away from us."

According to sources, Jobs -- clad in his trademark faded jeans and black turtleneck -- spoke and fielded questions for about an hour. After expressing his determination not to repeat the loss incurred in the first quarter, Apple's chief executive said that pre-orders for new Macs the company introduced at this month's Macworld Expo/San Francisco should push Apple back into the black for the current quarter.

While Jobs warned staffers -- many of whom have been hit hard by the drop in value of Apple stock since the company issued a profit warning for the fourth quarter of 2000 -- not to expect a rapid spike in the value of their shares, he predicted that Apple will continue to enjoy a gradual rise in value in the coming months.

Attendees said Jobs told them the PowerBook G4 will begin shipping next week and Apple is on track to deliver its new, top-of-the-line Power Mac G4 systems next month -- the 733 and 667MHz professional desktops will feature firmware tweaks that will optimise the performance of their Pioneer SuperDrives, which can read and write both CD and DVD media.

Jobs touted the company's DVD strategy, which includes the newly announced iDVD authoring software as well as the SuperDrive. He compared desktop DVD authoring to desktop publishing, which catapulted the Mac to prominence in the 1980s. While he cited Compaq Computer as another PC manufacturer that has adopted the SuperDrive for its desktop systems, Jobs said Apple's firmware optimisations and software solutions will give it an advantage over other SuperDrive OEM customers.

On the OS front, Jobs predicted a gradual rollout for Mac OS X, which is scheduled to begin shipping 24 March. Jobs said Apple will hold its marketing firepower for the next-generation OS until summer, when more third-party software will be available and the company expects to deliver Mac OS X pre-loaded on all its hardware. "We're going to let them grab it out of our hands," he quipped.

Echoing last week's conference call with analysts, Jobs asserted that Apple has cut its inventory to 5.5 weeks, down from a high of more than 11 weeks in December. He also touted a new round of advertisements for the PowerBook G4 that began running this week in mainstream publications.

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