Jobs calls demand for new laptop 'gratifying'

Claiming that his company has successfully combined power with sex appeal, Steve Jobs, Apple Computer Inc.'s chief executive officer, announced proudly on Wednesday that the new Titanium PowerBook G4 laptops started shipping on schedule this week.

Speaking at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California, Jobs addressed a crowd of financial analysts with a speech that echoed many of the sentiments heard earlier in the month at the Macworld show. In particular, Jobs confirmed that Apple has begun shipping its one inch thick laptops, demand for which has been "gratifying," he said.

Jobs also confirmed that the next version of its operating system -- Mac OS X -- would arrive as planned on March 24. "We are very excited about Mac OS X," Jobs said. "We think strategically it will be the most important thing we do this year."

While March 24 marks the date for retail sales, Apple will start offering the new OS installed on computers by mid-year, when an "avalanche" of applications will arrive, Jobs said. Microsoft Corp.'s Office productivity suite is expected to be one of these mid-year deliveries.

Strong orders for the new laptops have convinced Jobs that his company can effect a financial turnaround. Adverse economic conditions affecting many companies in the tech sector took their toll on Apple as well, with the company posting its first loss in three years just two weeks ago. "We do not know what kind of macroeconomic hand we will be dealt this year," Jobs said. "We have certainly cut back on some things here at Apple. We are going to have to wait and see. Fortunately, we have a very loyal customer base and a pro customer base.

"I can guarantee you that we are attracting some Wintel and corporate users," the Apple CEO said, referring to systems that use Microsoft Corp. software and Intel Corp. processors. "We will also look at how we can appeal to our installed customer base and get them to upgrade at a more rapid rate than they were thinking of."

One disappointment for Apple has been less-than-brisk sales of its G4 Cube, released last year. Apple had hoped the system would have broad appeal, but found that interest was strongest among high-end users - a fact the company is ready to live with.

"The Cube has found its market,' Jobs said. "The disappointment for us was that the market was not as big as we thought."

Jobs deflected questions of the PCs demise, reiterating his argument that the PC will act as the hub for an emerging digital lifestyle. Apple hopes to attract users with its SuperDrive product, which can read and write CDs and DVDs; its iTunes music software, and its iDVD video editing software, Jobs said. Users can take these tools and use the PC's power to increase their value and take better advantage of their media files, he said.

The Apple chief added that if demand is strong for high-end options such as the SuperDrive, Apple may start to offer those options with its consumer line of computers.

"Our products might not be the cheapest products out there, but we believe that we are delivering a superior product," Jobs said.

Apple, in Cupertino, California, can be reached at +1-408-996-1010 or at

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