Apple Computer Inc. is developing low-cost network computers that will run Macintosh software, to be introduced in early 1998.
Apple board member Larry Ellison told reporters at an industry conference in Los Angeles that the so-called network computers would use the Macintosh operating system.
He declined to say when the computers would be introduced, although sources said the devices would be available early next year.
Ellison, chief executive of database software firm Oracle Corp. and a strong supporter of the network computer, said the recent appointment of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as interim chief executive was a boost for the troubled Cupertino-based computer maker.
"With Steve Jobs back at the helm at Apple, you'll see more innovation in 10 weeks than you would in 10 years without Steve," Ellison said.
Network computers are usually less costly than regular PCs, come without a floppy disk or CD-ROM drive, and are developed for accessing corporate networks and the Internet.
"What I've heard is that as soon as Jobs arrived, that [product] went on the fast burner," said James Staten, a Dataquest Inc. analyst. "It was fast-tracked to become a product as soon as possible." Staten said he did not yet have any specific product details.
MacWeek, an industry trade publication, reported late last week that Apple initially plans to run the Macintosh OS Version 8 on a network computer device, which will run the 266-megahertz versions of the PowerPC 750 processor.
Apple plans to unveil the network computer at the next MacWorld Expo in January in San Francisco, according to MacWeek, which cited unnamed sources.
Separately Monday, Apple filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Jose, accusing a former employee of accepting more than $1 million in bribes over eight years. In return, he allegedly steered $168 million in business to a supplier of printer components called James E. Grimes Co. of Upland.
The suit names Gary Edwards, former head of Apple's imaging products division, as well as the supplier as defendants.
An Apple spokeswoman said it would be inappropriate to discuss the lawsuit. Officials at James E. Grimes Co. could not be reached.
Apple's stock fell $1.06 to close at $21.75 on Nasdaq.