Apple@30: What next for Jobs and Co?

Apple@30: What next for Jobs and Co?

What can chief executive Steve Jobs do to make sure his company hasn't peaked?

Thirty years after its humble start, Apple Computer seems more powerful than ever. Last year it posted record sales and earnings, and investors are back in love. But what can Chief Executive Steve Jobs do to make sure his company hasn't peaked?

For starters, he needs to push forward with his ongoing mission to turn his premium-priced computers into mass market must-haves. That started last year, when Apple did what was once unthinkable and made a pact with Intel to use the company's microprocessors. The Intel-based boxes hit the shelves in February, and the laptops became available in March. (See: " A Win-Wait for Apple.")

Even more important than the box, though, is the software that runs it. Apple's computers have long been lauded for their aesthetics, but the software powering the machines has been what's kept Apple's core customers of digerati and media mavens coming back for more. (See: " Apple Starting to Shine for Intel.")

Apple's newest operating system, dubbed Tiger, has been a hit thanks to its inclusion of music, video and picture-editing features, as well as strong security features: It is elegant, intuitive and offers users a sense of safety.

Tiger is slated to be replaced with a new operating system, dubbed Leopard, later this year or early next year. But with the latest push-back of Microsoft's long-awaited and oft-delayed Vista operating system into 2007, Apple may try to move its schedule up to take advantage of the void. (See: " Microsoft Vista: Not People Ready.")

Meanwhile, Jobs still needs to find ways to sell more iPods. Apple has managed to sell 42 million units so far, but it needs to constantly give consumers a reason to buy yet another--and to fend off competitors such as Samsung Electronics. The always-active Macintosh rumor mill now seems convinced that Jobs will soon roll out iPods that feature larger, touch-sensitive screens; analysts are also predicting another run at the mobile phone.

Then there's the digital home, where Microsoft, Sony, and a host of competitors want to insert themselves as some sort of hub or gatekeeper for communications and entertainment. Apple's slick, easy-to-use interfaces and its Intel alliance should give it a shot at the market. It already has a simple remote-controlled interface for its entertainment software and the Mac Mini, a proper-sized computer for powering all things digital in a living room.