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Apple Will Focus on School Market, Educators Told

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Faced with financial difficulties and rumors of a potential takeover by a rival company, Apple Computer Inc. has taken unusual steps to assure its education customers that the company remains viable.

Company officials said last week that a top executive will follow up an earlier letter to Apple's school customers with a letter explaining steps the company will take to focus on the education market.

The new letter from Terry Crane, Apple's senior vice president for education in the Americas, will note that Ms. Crane has received letters and electronic mail from numerous school customers expressing their loyalty to the company, said Stacey Byrnes, a spokeswoman for the education division.

The letter was expected to be made public as early as this week.

The earlier letter distributed to Apple's education customers, who are among the company's most loyal buyers, emphasized the company's continued commitment to educators.

"First, it is important to understand the company's restructuring plan is bringing more, not less, focus to education," Ms. Crane wrote in the Jan. 25 letter.

Ms. Byrnes conceded that the letters are an unusual tactic for the media-shy company. She said they seek to counter what the company perceives as unfavorable publicity in recent months.

Stiff Competition

Although Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple had billions of dollars worth of sales last year, its strength lies in a handful of key areas--notably education, particularly the K-12 market.

Apple, which has had financial difficulties in the past, suffered a $69 million loss in the last quarter of 1995. Earlier this year, the company weathered intense media speculation that Sun Microsystems Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., sought to buy it.

At an unruly meeting of shareholders earlier this month, meanwhile, Michael Spindler, Apple's chief executive officer, was replaced by Gilbert Amelio, the former chief executive of the National Semiconductor Corp.

Despite its success in the school market, Apple faces stiff competition from several other companies, most notably the Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. Microsoft has formed a marketing alliance with Compaq Computer Corp. of Houston to sell hardware and software to schools.

The Apple Macintosh computer uses a proprietary operating system--the complex set of instructions that tell the computer how to do its work.

Apple's operating system is incompatible with most personal computers in the business world. Increasingly, the growing number of homes with personal computers use systems that are licensed by Microsoft.

As a result, Apple now commands less than 8 percent of the personal-computer market.

Ms. Byrnes said that Apple has launched a new forum on the Internet's World Wide Web to allow educators to communicate with top company officials, including Ms. Crane.

The forum is located at http://always.apple.com. Copies of Ms. Crane's two letters will be posted at http://www.info.apple.com/education.

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