Jobs sticks with Apple, invests in EarthLink

iCEO downloads $200 mil into ISP

Nearly three years after saving Apple Computer Inc., co-founder Steve Jobs said he is deleting the “interim” title from his CEO post and is investing $200 million in EarthLink Network Inc., making it the default Internet service provider for Apple’s line of computers.

The charismatic Jobs made the announcement Wednesday at the MacWorld Expo trade show in San Francisco, receiving a standing ovation, just after unveiling Apple’s next-generation “Aqua” OS X operating system.

“I accept your thanks on behalf of everyone at Apple,” he said at the conference, which has become known as a venue Jobs uses to break big news.

Jobs now becomes Apple’s permanent chief executive, while remaining co-founder, chairman and CEO of Richmond, Calif.-based Pixar Animation Studios Inc. (“Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life”).

Jobs became interim CEO in September 1997 while the company was searching for a permanent leader. While in the post, he helped revive the company with its new colorful iMac and G4 lineup of computers.

Apple had searched for a new CEO for about six months after Jobs was named interim CEO, but then gave up. The company had ousted Jobs in 1985.

“It’s been two and a half years now, and I hope that we’ve been able to demonstrate to the shareholders of Apple and Pixar that I can do both of these jobs,” Jobs said. “I thought it was time.”

Jobs said he will continue using the abbreviation iCEO, playing off the “I” in “iMac” and as a reference to the Internet.

As part of its Internet strategy, which the company also plans to use to revamp its image, Apple will get an unspecified share of the revenue generated by EarthLink from each new Mac customer who subscribes to the service. Apple will also take a seat on EarthLink’s board.

EarthLink, co-founded by Sky Dayton and based in Pasadena, is set to merge with Mindspring Enterprises Inc., creating the No. 2 Internet service provider after America Online.

Dayton recently formed Internet business incubator eCompanies with former Buena Vista Internet Group chairman Jake Winebaum.

Apple’s stock jumped up $1.50 on Wednesday, to close at $104 on the news.

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