Don't believe Apple tea leaf readers - Amelio

Apple Computer Inc, flush with a strong product line-up and innovative software in the works, has a bright future, Gilbert Amelio, the former chairman and chief executive of the company, said in a speech on Tuesday.

"The future I see makes me more confident about Apple's future than those who are reading tea leaves and predicting a dark outlook for the company," Amelio said in his first public speech since his ouster from the company three weeks ago.

"In addition to its powerful brand, I'm proud that the company now has the strongest product line-up in its history. And when Apple's next-generation operating system, Rhapsody, is released, I predict that once again Apple will be seen as showing the way for the PC industry."

Amelio, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco, took credit for shoring up the company's weak finances when he arrived there 18 months ago. He also took credit for installing a program to get the company to concentrate on developing its legendary Macintosh software.

Apple now needs a strong, charismatic "marketing genius" who can please the "Apple cult," Amelio said. He "has no clue" whom Apple is considering to replace him as chief executive and chairman. He also does not know whether Steven Jobs, the company's co-founder and part-time advisor, is interested in the position.

Amelio resigned from the struggling personal computer company three weeks ago under pressure from the board of directors, who were not happy with shrinking sales and market share. Apple has yet to name a successor.

In a speech, Amelio said he will remain independent for a while and become a "technology philosopher."

He also mildly criticised the press and the "cult" of die-hard Macintosh fans for not giving him enough credit for his job, but said the intense scrutiny was not surprising, given Apple's status as an American icon.