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Surfing Silicon Valley: Apple earns profits -- and kudos from the man it fired

From San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre

April 17, 1998
Web posted at: 3:57 PM EDT (1557 GMT)

(CNN) -- Gil Amelio, who got bounced as CEO of Apple Computer last year, offered his former company a hearty "Well done!" on Friday. Apple earned $55 million last quarter. That is two profitable quarters in a row after at least eight in the red.

Was Amelio bitter that he wasn't there to bear the good tidings? Far from it. He takes some of the credit. It was he who radically pared down Apple's size and trimmed the number of its products to a manageable few. But the payoffs came on Steve Jobs' watch, and Amelio sends his public congratulations.

Amelio says he still thinks the Macintosh is the best personal computer out there. He owns seven. One just went to his 4-year-old grandson who, true to form, mastered it in minutes.

Amelio is promoting his book "On The Firing Line," a moment-by-moment chronicle of his tumultuous 17 months trying to keep Apple from joining Osborne and KayPro in the computer graveyard. Apple was bleeding red ink by the gallon -- during one brief period losing $1,000 for every Mac sold.

Wins and losses

Some of the things that went right: OS8, which Amelio rescued from the Copland project; trimming the company; promoting the clones; and the use of high performance chips.

The misses included the Pippin, a set-top box precursor to WebTV that was improbably promoted as a game, Macs and Newtons that were too expensive, and the failure to keep a sharp eye on Jobs.

Briefly on OS8: It is so good, so smooth, it will change your mind about how easy a computer is to use. Hard-core Win fans and Mac OS 7.6 fans are blown away by the ease, color, speed and style of OS8.

If you're still driving a 7.5 or 7.6, find someone with OS8 and take a spin. That "ask someone who uses it" was a theme Amelio wanted to use in Apple's new Mac campaign. He doesn't think the "Think Different" draws customers to the Mac. (Apple says it has 55 million reasons to disagree).

Amelio say the Mac's best advocates are its users. He thinks Jobs is a rebel, and believes the "Think Different" ad campaign fits Jobs perfectly.

"Steve is different, wants to be different, wants not to compete (with the same type of products) but to be different," Amelio says.

Millions joined Jobs in 1984 when the Macintosh hit the street. But times, and computing, are different these days. How many will join him now?

Surf on ...


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