Apple after Jobs's first 100 days

Apple Computer now appears unlikely to name a successor to interim CEO Steve Jobs by the end of December.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto
3 min read
Steve Jobs will hit his 100-day milestone as interim chief executive at Apple Computer (AAPL) next week.

It's been 100 days marked both by hopeful strategies--like adopting a direct sales model--and setbacks such as reporting a $161 million loss for the ailing computer maker's fourth quarter.

In addition, Apple's search for a permanent CEO could easily stretch into another 100 days, beyond its stated target of naming a successor to Jobs by the end of December.

Apple board member Edgar Woolard said he considers January to be still within the time frame of Apple's year-end goal but noted that it's "speculative" to say whether Apple has narrowed the search down to one final candidate just yet.

In the meantime, Jobs must confront several challenges if he is to win back market share and the confidence of investors, analysts said.

"There's a lot left to do in the next 100 days," said Daniel Kunstler, an analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities. "The vibes I get is there will be incremental improvement in [profitability] this quarter."

Kunstler said that, at the moment, Apple is focused on improving its profitability picture rather than growing its revenues. He noted that the company faces tough times ahead as fire sales by former Mac clone vendors are expected to push Apple's financial performance below its year-ago performance levels through March.

Indeed, the numbers Jobs is looking to turn around are daunting. Apple's worldwide market share slipped to 3.3 percent in the third quarter, down from both year-ago figures and the previous quarter. In October, the company posted a $161 million loss for the fourth quarter, an announcement that came several weeks after Jobs was officially named interim CEO.

Although he has established a distribution and product road map for the company, the fact that he has managed to follow this map for one quarter hardly ensures that the company will continue on Jobs's path, Kunstler said.

Jobs announced last month that Apple would begin selling computers directly to customers via its Web site, and the company announced last month that it sold over $12 million in orders during the first 30 days of its new operation. He also demonstrated a new Apple product on which the company's hopes for resurrection are pegged, the Power Mac G3 series.

Kunstler said it is unlikely that Jobs will choose to team Apple up with a network computer in the future, and said he may opt for a sub-$1,000 strategy with a NetPC instead. Job's friend and fellow Apple board member Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, however, has said in previous reports that Apple eventually would adopt an NC strategy.

Prior to his official appointment as interim CEO, Jobs launched several significant initiatives aimed at resuscitating the company he cofounded. For example, it was his decision to officially extract Apple from the cloning business and to acquire the Mac business of Power Computing, and it was on his watch that Apple landed a $150 million investment from Microsoft.

Although Apple's stock rose to nearly 30 a share during the month after Jobs stepped up to the CEO plate, more than doubling from the 13 range at which it traded prior to the ouster of former CEO Gilbert Amelio, Apple's shares have given up ground of late. The stock currently is trading at levels similar to those at which it was trading under Amelio.