Having recently appeared on the cover of prestigious publications such as Time Magazine, Steve Jobs has once again achieved newsstand celebrity status, as the charismatic Apple iCEO has been chosen for a cover story appearing in wannabe fat cat’s bible Fortune magazine .

The indepth article by journalist Brent Schlender, states that if Jobs' plan for Apple works out, "Microsoft, AOL, and others will be playing catch-up with a company left for dead two years ago."

Jobs also reveals why he dropped the ‘interim’ part of his iCEO job title, and that he’ll stay at Apple for at least four or five years. There’s new Apple hardware "in the pipeline", and a renewed push to the consumer market. And Steve even fills us in on his dinner at Bill Gates’ house " a couple of weeks ago".

Apple back in front again Schlender calls 44-year-old Steve Jobs "the personal-computer industry's chief aesthetic officer", and catches up with the Apple co-founder and current chief executive officer in the boardroom at Apple's Cupertino, California, HQ, checking out the company’s then soon-to-be-announced Web-site redesign on a 22-inch-wide Apple Cinema flat-panel monitor.

In the Fortune cover feature, Jobs' reveals his goal: to use the Internet to make Apple's computers show up Wintel PCs rather than merely stay even.

Says Jobs: "I don't want to toot our own horn too much, because it sounds arrogant, but the rest of the industry is trying to copy our every move again, just like in the '80s," says Jobs. "Every PC manufacturer is trying to copy the iMac in one way or another. And you can bet they'll be cloning iBook next year. The same goes for our software. Our QuickTime streaming video player has this sleek, brushed-metal look on the screen, and our iMovie digital video editing software on the new iMacs lets you make your home movies actually viewable. Well, a month ago Bill Gates announced that Microsoft's next Windows multimedia player was going to feature a brushed-metal interface, and that they're coming out with Windows Movie Maker. So now we've got Microsoft copying us again too. And I don't mind. I don't mind."

Describing the present position of Apple, Job says, "It has been a bigger company, but it has never been more capable or more profitable than today. The best thing is that we're done patching the place up. Now we're marching forward on all fronts."

OS X’s grand plan Schlender also gets to talk about Mac OS X with Apple’s senior vice president for software engineering, Avie Tevanian.

Tevanian stresses that, despite being technologically possible, it is not one of Apple's immediate priorities to port Mac OS X to PCs running on Intel or equivalent processors.

Tevanian is keen to point out the real benefits of Mac OS X: the set of native programming development tools and interfaces known as Cocoa.

" Cocoa lets programmers build brand-new programs in about a tenth the time it would take to write them for any other operating system, says Tevanian.

Tevanian hopes Cocoa will tempt developers - who deserted by the hundreds in recent years as Apple's market share waned - to start building Mac applications again.

Mac OS X has been developed for consumers as much as for Apple’s professional customers.

"Who says consumers don't want and need the best technology?" Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president for worldwide marketing, asks Schlender. "Always before, the consumer market was considered the tail of the dog. Well, we're driving advanced technology back to the consumer. That's how the whole PC business started."

"The thing about NeXT was that we produced something that was truly brilliant for an audience that our heart really wasn't into selling to - namely, the enterprise," adds Jobs.

"The whole thing circles back. All of a sudden, it's coming out for the market that we would've liked to create it for in the first place - i.e., consumers. So it's a good ending."

Schlender asks Jobs if offering services exclusively for Macintosh users "raises the possibility that Apple may start a dangerous trend: breaking up the Internet into exclusive, jealously guarded preserves".

But Jobs insists that can't happen: "The Internet has resisted all efforts to balkanize it. The point is that iMac users can get everything else on the Web that everyone else gets, plus all these new services."

Apple back on track While Jobs has lots he's proud of – the iMac, a return to profits, and the recent Mac OS X and Internet strategy announcements, to mention a few examples – Schlender says "what really gets Jobs cranked is the buff condition of Apple itself".

He asks exactly why Jobs stripped the word 'interim' from his title.

"I took a walk with my wife the other night and was telling her how, the way I see it, Apple offers me a base that I would be foolish to walk away from," jobs says. "Think about it. By the end of this year we'll have maybe $5 billion in the bank, the Macintosh will be thriving, hopefully our Internet services will be a big hit, and our engineering teams will be operating at the peak of their games. I'm always keeping my eyes open for the next big opportunity, but the way the world is now, it will take enormous resources, both in money and in engineering talent, to make it happen. I don't know what that next big thing might be, but I have a few ideas. Whatever it is, it will be much easier and better to use Apple as the springboard than to have to start from scratch."

During that same walk, Jobs told his wife he plans to stay with Apple at least four or five more years.

Jobs: Money isn’t everything Jobs explains why he still lets Apple pay him only $1 a year.

"The board has made several incredibly generous offers. I have turned them all down for a few reasons. For the first year I did not want the shareholders and employees of Pixar to think their CEO was going on a camping trip over to Apple never to return. After two and a half years, I think that the management teams at Pixar and at Apple have demonstrated that we can handle this situation. That's why I dropped the "interim" from my title. I'm still called iCEO, though, because I think it's cool.

"Bottom line is, I didn't return to Apple to make a fortune. I've been very lucky in my life and already have one. When I was 25, my net worth was $100 million or so. I decided then that I wasn't going to let it ruin my life. There's no way you could ever spend it all, and I don't view wealth as something that validates my intelligence. I just wanted to see if we could work together to turn this thing around when the company was literally on the verge of bankruptcy. The decision to go without pay has served me well."

Jobs reveals that at a recent dinner in Seattle at Bill Gates' house, both PC pioneers agreed that are now "greybeards". And Jobs, at least, is worried by the attitude of today’s Internet pioneers.

"It's hard to tell with these Internet start-ups if they're really interested in building companies or if they're just interested in the money. I can tell you, though: If they don't really want to build a company, they won't luck into it. That's because it's so hard that if you don't have a passion, you'll give up. There were times in the first two years when we could have given up and sold Apple, and it probably would've died.

"The rewarding thing isn't merely to start a company or to take it public. It's like when you're a parent. Although the birth experience is a miracle, what's truly rewarding is living with your child and helping him grow up.

When these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they're gypping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their newfound wealth in perspective."

Apple back to business? Schlender asks Jobs if Apple is considering a move back to the corporate enterprise-computing market.

"A lot of people can't get past the fact that we're not going after the enterprise market," responds the Apple boss. "But that's like saying, ‘How can the Gap be successful not making suits?’ Well, we don't make wingtips here either."

"We think that a lot more big businesses will eventually come back to us, because Fortune 500 companies use a lot of consumer products," he adds.

"It's really hard to serve multiple masters - different sets of customers with completely different points of view, requirements, and ways of approaching computing. I think Microsoft is experiencing this."

"I've always believed that the biggest market for PCs is consumers. The Mac was originally intended to be a consumer PC. One of the big arguments I had with [former Apple CEO] John Sculley was that the Mac was designed to sell for $1,000. Yes, we overshot a little and it cost too much to make to sell for that, but even so, I thought it should have sold for between $1,500 and $1,799. John wanted to bump it up to $2,499. His vision was to keep on going all the way up and have Macs selling for $5,000 or $10,000. After I left, that's exactly what Apple did."

"By some measures, it worked. Apple made a fortune, although not as much as we're making today. What they didn't understand was that they had thrown away one of the greatest chances they'd ever get to win market share. They went for $1 billion in extra profits over four or five years when what they really should have done was tell everybody they would make 'normal' profits and go for market share."

Coming soon from Apple Despite there being no hardware announcements from Apple at the recent Macworld Expo 2000 in San Francisco, Jobs promises that Apple has some "amazing hardware in the pipeline".

"I still spend a lot of my time working on new computers, and it will always be a primal thing for Apple," says Jobs. "But the user experience is what we care about most, and we're expanding that experience beyond the box by making better use of the Internet. The user experience now entails four things: the hardware, the operating system, the applications, and the Net. We want to do all four uniquely well for our customers."

What, asks Schlender, are Apple’s plans for non-PC Internet devices?

Jobs is sceptical: "If you look at the Internet, you can see it is absolutely optimized for PCs. All the pages are laid out to be viewed on a PC. That's one reason WebTV has failed. Beyond that, the Web is rich with things like Java and QuickTime and RealPlayer and MP3 sound files. By the time you build a device that [can handle those things], you've got something that is like a PC without the disk drives and is only about $50 cheaper than a PC or an iMac."

However, Jobs does reveal that Net devices are a feature in the company labs: "I won't lie, we're working on other digital devices like everybody else. But I'm not convinced that customers won't pay a little bit more for a device that's not going to be obsolete in a year and that's going to give them the full Internet experience, not an ‘Internet Jr.’ experience." .

Raising the computer industry from a ‘coma’ Schlender asks Jobs whether his obsession with design is "an inborn instinct".

"Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service. The iMac is not just the colour or translucence or the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible consumer computer in which each element plays together," explains Jobs.

"I don't see enough innovation like that in our industry," adds Apple’s returned saviour. "My position coming back to Apple was that our industry was in a coma. It reminded me of Detroit in the '70s, when American cars were boats on wheels. That's why we have a really good chance to be a serious player again."