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Steve Jobs, CEO / Apple Computer

Steve Jobs hugging Paul Otellini on stage. Who would have thought we&'d see that? The sight of the CEOs of Apple Computer and Intel sharing the spotlight at Apple&'s developer conference in June was one of the IT world&'s enduring images of 2005—the year the Macintosh got a new core.

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By moving the Mac to Intel chips, Jobs will sweeten Apple&'s appeal to businesses and position the company to break out of its consumer PC niche. “This is something Steve Jobs planned to do when he came [back] to Apple. It was a long-term strategy to kind of fix what has historically been a competitive problem for Apple,” says Rob Enderle, an analyst at The Enderle Group.

Another factor that may have helped nudge Apple toward Intel: Jobs seems closer to Otellini—who officially became Intel CEO in May—than to the chip giant&'s previous CEO, Craig Barrett, Enderle says.

Many think Jobs&' decision to pull the plug on the PowerPC processor may well end up being the biggest thing to happen to Apple since … oh yeah, the iPod. The digital music player&'s sales continue to skyrocket, spurring Mac sales and lifting Apple&'s brand higher than ever. The company&'s sales shot up 68 percent to $13.9 billion and earnings jumped 384 percent to $1.3 billion for the year ended Sept. 24.

Not bad for a device that essentially evolved from the portable CD player, says Apple specialist David Salav, president of Webistix, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider. “It wasn&'t like anybody invented another element for the periodic table. [Apple] just took the next natural step before anybody else did. That&'s why Jobs is an innovator.”

And the hard-charging Jobs, who turned 50 this year, shows no signs of slowing down, even as Apple blazes a trail in the fledgling digital music business. “One reason he remains a force in the industry is because he continues to try to innovate with the customer in mind,” says Ed Crelin, president and CEO of MacInsight, an IT consulting firm in Wallingford, Vt.

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