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Jobs's moves looking good

Rotten no more: Apple Computer's efforts appear to be paying off.

Rotten no more: Apple Computer's (AAPL) aggressive efforts appear to be paying off.

The advertising campaign, the online store, the company's build-to-order efforts, and its deal with CompUSA to develop the "store within a store" concept--giving Apple products expanded floor space and presentation in the retailer's superstores--have all contributed to a heightened awareness to the public that the Mac maker is back, according to analysts.

The latest in Apple's series of new ads promoting its G3 systems debuted last night during prime-time television programs. These ads are the first commercials the computer maker has produced since fall 1996, when it created a campaign for the education market called "Bring learning home."

The latest spots in this series of ads are more product-focused, a sign that the company is moving to bring its products into the spotlight, said Lou Mazzucchelli, a financial analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison, who added that the company's "Think different" campaign message was nebulous.

Mazzucchelli predicted that the company will ship about 300,000 G3 computers this quarter. That is up from the 130,000 units shipped in the previous quarter.

That number is up from his original expectations and is a direct result of "the quality of the products, the marketing and advertising efforts, the channel streamlining, and general confidence about health of company," he noted.

The focus of the company's health has shifted away from the absence of a permanent chief executive to replace former CEO Gil Amelio, who left the company last July. "The CEO hasn't been the big issue in a while. A CEO would definitely be a positive addition, but it's not like the house is on fire," since Steve Jobs has been serving as interim CEO and has drawn a path for the company.

Yesterday, Apple named Timothy Cook as its senior vice president of worldwide operations. Cook, who will report to Apple's CEO, will be charged with leading Apple's global operations--that is, worldwide manufacturing, product forecasting, and distribution.

Mazzucchelli said the hiring of Cook, who was most recently vice president of corporate materials at Compaq Computer (CPQ), is a key hire. "For Apple to be able to recruit someone of that stature is very positive," he added.

Wall Street seems to have taken notice. Apple stock has outpaced year-to-date gains for industry giants such as Compaq, Dell (DELL), and IBM (IBM).

Share prices have been been rising in the wake of Apple's decision to abandon the Newton platform, in addition to other moves to get back on track. Interim CEO Steve Jobs has chopped off business units, trimmed the staff, and taken a liking to once bitter rival Microsoft (MSFT) to get costs under control and lay out a future for the company.

In this week's example of teamwork, Microsoft unveiled an updated Java development tool and disclosed plans for unifying Java applications on Windows and Macintosh systems.

These efforts have not yet included a strategy to address the popularity of low-cost computers, a product sector that has been pursued by Compaq and others.

"This has all been high-end and it has been great, but Apple has to be in the sub-$1,000 price point," said Mazzucchelli. "It intends to compete vigorously," but there is a limited opportunity to get products to market. He added products have to be out by summer to be able to take advantage of back-to-school and holiday sales.

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