SAN FRANCISCO - With a speech that was long on theatrics but short on specifics, Apple Computer Inc. chairman Gil Amelio on Tuesday sought to persuade the world that the beleaguered computer company has a viable strategy for the future.
Likening his company's predicament to that of the human race in the hit the movie "Independence Day," Amelio said: "`Independence Day' has three acts. In the first, we're all under attack. In act two, the good guys regroup ... and finally when everything looks bleakest, there comes the counter-attack."
The counter-attack features the new operating system software that Apple will create based on the technology of Steve Jobs' Next Software Inc. Apple agreed to acquire Next late last month and Jobs, Apple's legendary co-founder, will rejoin the company as a consultant.
Jobs on Tuesday gave a brief speech and was later joined by the other Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak. They received a standing ovation from the crowd of Apple faithful 4,000 strong that filled the seats and lined the hallways.
Jobs did little more than rally the crowd with a promise that the new Next-based Macintosh operating system - scheduled for release during the fourth quarter of this year - will be far superior that of archrival Microsoft Corp., and will thus return the company to its glory days when Jobs was at the helm.
"What we want to do here is provide relevant, compelling solutions to people that they can only get from Apple," said Jobs, whose precise role at Apple remains to be defined.
Jobs and Amelio stressed that the new software, code-named Rhapsody will run on today's Macs and will be able to run applications written for machines shipping today via a compatibility window on the computer's screen. In a briefing before the keynote address, Apple chief technology officer Ellen Hancock said the current Macintosh operating system will continue to be improved, perhaps for as long as another decade.
Though he acknowledged he was disappointed by a projected first quarter loss of between $100 and $150 million, Amelio insisted the company's recovery is on track. He noted that Apple has $1.7 billion in cash to weather what is likely to be a difficult transition year.
"In the past when we had problems, Apple would invent a new strategy," he said. "We don't do that anymore.
Apple hopes to ship a first version of Rhapsody to software developers by mid- to late next year, and a version ready for consumers within 12 months.
The decision to go with Next - rather than the other options Apple had been considering for updating the Macintosh - is being well received by independent software developers so far. One of the most important - none other than Microsoft itself - offered a vote of confidence Tuesday when it said it would set up a new business unit to develop applications for the Macintosh.
Netscape Communications also pledged its support for the new operating system.