Ellen Hancock, Apple's newly appointed chief technology officer, claims most Mac users have stayed with the company throughout its recent troubles.
Speaking at Apple Expo held in London earlier this month, Hancock said she has been rapidly checking things off a to-do list she compiled on joining the company in July.
She admitted that Apple's ability to innovate had suffered as the company struggled to haul itself back into the black over the past six months.
"Most of our customers have stayed with us despite our problems. But our advantage is eroding and only a breakthrough in our technology strategy will change that," she said.
Financially, Apple is in a better position than it was in July. But Hancock isn't complacent: "We can't ever take our position for granted," she said, "We have to earn it. I currently have a great sense of urgency in delivering a compelling technology strategy for Apple."
One of the first strategy changes she and Apple CEO Gil Amelio made was to the MacOS. Each feature is now delivered as and when it is ready, rather than waiting for a collection of features to be completed and then shipping them as a major release.
"All the pieces may not come together as and when you want them but they will work," said Hancock. "Apple has always had labs full of great technology, but keeping them there won't win market share."
According to recent press reports, Apple will be making a major operating system announcement in January. It is widely expected to involve Apple acquiring or licensing operating system technology from US developer Be Inc. Some reports have even suggested that Apple may replace the MacOS completely with Be Inc's technology.
But Hancock wasn't giving anything away: "Be Inc. supports the PowerPC and we are working with it as we would with other developers. Anything beyond that is rumour."
However, presented with the opportunity to quash those rumours once and for all, she declined. "I'm going to let it go by. Apple has done a fair amount of work towards MacOS 8 and our engineers are continuing work on it. The only reason we would consider other technology is if we could reach our objectives quicker."
The only OS announcement she would confirm was the release in January of the System 7.5 update, codenamed Harmony, a further update in July, codenamed Tempo (previously known as Copland), and a major upgrade in January 1998. As to Gershwin, the next major release beyond that, the wait could be a long one.
"In the four months I have been at Apple I have yet to meet a single person working on Gershwin," stated Hancock. "So believe me, I will know when it's going to arrive."
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