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Apple’s Second Jobs Era Begins With First Peek At OS X

After stunning the Apple faithful with new multicolored iMacs and iBooks at the past three Macworld Expos, company founder Steve Jobs stole the show last week by announcing his return as full-time CEO.

Jobs’ decision was made to satiate the media, which had spent the past two years asking whether he would drop the interim part of his title, said retailers who attended the show.

Jobs came back to Apple in September 1997 on an interim basis, after losing his position in what amounted to a palace coup in 1985. Jobs also will retain his title as CEO of Pixar Animation Studios.

“Now people don’t have to ask the question any more,” said Geoff Westerfield, product manager for ComputerWare, Sunnyvale, Calif. “But in the grand scheme of things I don’t think his behavior will change much.”

Jobs’ decision stole some of the thunder from the introduction of Mac OS X, the next-generation Macintosh operating system, and the iTools Internet service at the show in San Francisco earlier this month.

Mac OS X will go on sale at retail this summer (pricing has not been announced) and will be preloaded as the standard operating system on all Macintosh computers beginning in early 2001. It can run almost all of the preexisting Mac applications on the market. Some software publishers, however, may need to “tune up” their software to take advantage of all OS X capabilities.

The iTools service gives consumers their own place on the Internet. Apple supplies them with 20MB of space on an Apple server and all the tools to build a home page. The site offers free e-mail, a three-step home page construction kit, an area for children containing 55,000 links to safe web sites, and a blocking mechanism to keep children away from inappropriate material.

“The notion that you can have a 20MB spot on the Net provided by Apple is pretty cool,” said Westerfield.

Tony Violanti, sales VP for ComputerTown, Salem, N.H., said, “What I like about Apple’s new Internet strategy is it requires consumers to upgrade to OS 9 or buy new hardware with that operating system.”

Other Macworld announcements included a multi-year deal making Earthlink the exclusive ISP in Apple’s Internet Setup Software, which will be included with all Macs. Apple will get a residual profit from each Mac customer who subscribes to Earthlink; in return, the company will invest $200 million in Earthlink.

Violanti was surprised by the dearth of new hardware at the show, and said, “Everyone expected new PowerBooks to be shown, but maybe that will happen at Macworld Tokyo or Seybold next month.”