Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that Apple's Titanium PowerBook G4s began shipping on schedule this week.

Speaking during yesterday's financial analysts conference, Jobs confirmed that demand for Apple's new pro-portables has been "gratifying".

Jobs once again said that the final version of Mac OS X would ship as planned on March 24. He added: "We are very excited about Mac OS X. We think strategically it will be the most important thing we do this year."

Application avalanche Apple will begin to install OS X on computers by mid-year, when an "avalanche" of applications will arrive, Jobs said. Microsoft's Mac Office 2001 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.

Jobs claimed: "We do not know what kind of macroeconomic hand we will be dealt this year. 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.

Wintel switchers He added: "I can guarantee you that we are attracting some Wintel and corporate users. 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.

"Entering 2001, the climate in the market right now is that Apple, and I think a lot of our compatriots in the market, are going to be looking to drive sales to the installed base as well as to expansion – you know pilfering customers."

Jobs repeated his vision that the personal computer 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. 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.

Innovation The Apple CEO said: "Innovation costs a little more, but our customers have signalled to us that innovative products are the kind they want to buy.

"Our products might not be the cheapest products out there, but we believe that they are superior."

Jobs touched on Internet appliances, and the impact of converging digital-entertainment technology on Apple's and other PC manufacturers sales. He said: "Every time people have forecast a collision of the PC and the 'blank' - whether it be the television set or the set top box - they haven't happened because of the amazing general-purpose nature of the PC. And most of these other devices are optimized for a small set of functions. They have a hard time growing and expanding."

Asked about rumours of Apple-branded retail stores, Jobs said that he could not discuss "unannounced initiatives".