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Apple: Judgement Day starts at 2pm today

At 2pm today Steve Jobs will stand up at Macworld to deliver the most important keynote of his life.

This is saying something, for a man who has seen many big moments at the rostrum, including the launch of the Apple Mac itself, a speech that left an audience made up of a large number of Apple employees who had worked on designing the Mac in tears.

Today the world is looking for more than emotion from Jobs. Wall Street, Silicon Valley, indeed the entire IT world wants answers to a number of important questions that need to be resolved if Apple is to survive. Specifically Jobs needs to deal with these issues. What is his personal role going to be - chairman, CEO, or continuing in the role of 'Special Adviser' to the board? What is the involvement of his close friend, and well known Valley billionaire Larry Ellison going to play in Apple? Ellison has for a long time been rumoured as a possible purchaser of Apple, and most recently it has been mooted that he will sit on the board.

This keynote has to tackle the 'make your mind up time' issue for Larry Ellison, as much as for Steve Jobs. Next we need to know what the position is on clones. Again, all kinds of rumours are flying, the speculation needs to be ended - do cloners get full support from Apple in their attempt to licence the new operating system and everything that goes with it, or do they not?

The perilous state of the company's finances must also be dealt with. If tough medicine needs to be swallowed to ensure the company's financial survival then today is the day to tell the world what this medicine is, and what is the prognosis for a return to profitability. Apple has three servers set up to disseminate a RealAudio broadcast of the speech, and ZDNet UK will be publishing a keynote summary and critique of the keynote at 3.30 today.