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Jobs on Leopard; Orange to sell unlocked iPhones; retail firings

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs says he can almost feel Apple reaching an inflection point in personal computer market. Meanwhile, there are some rumblings about 'official' unlocked iPhones going on sale in France. And rumor has it that as many as 800 Apple retail employees were recently given the boot for cheating the company.

Jobs on the Mac's mainstream prospects

As Apple nears the release of the first significant upgrade to Mac OS X in two years, its chief executive believes the software could help the company pick up the pace of gains it has been making against primary rival Microsoft Corp. in the personal-computer business.

Leopard will arrive in stores as Mac sales are growing at more than twice the pace of the PC market in general, reports The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), helping the Cupertino-based firm make small, steady market-share gains against Microsoft in 10 of the 11 most recent quarters.

In an interview Tuesday, Jobs said he expects Leopard will help continue that trend, especially in the consumer market, where Apple puts most of its emphasis.

"The question is are we headed for a tipping point," said Jobs. "It sometimes feels like that."

Orange to sell unlocked iPhone

Apple's announcement Tuesday that it had signed France Telecom's wireless unit, Orange, to be its exclusive seller of the iPhone in France may have included a first-time clause that the carrier may also sell an unlocked version of the device that consumers can use on any network.

"The move, which ended a month of speculation, is a concession to a French law that forbids bundling the sale of a mobile phone and a mobile operator," the International Herald Tribune (IHT) reports. "Orange plans to sell both a version of the iPhone locked to its network in France for €399, or $560, and an unlocked version, which will cost more, an Orange spokeswoman [...] said."

According to the Orange spokeswoman, the cost of the unlocked version of the iPhone will be announced in November. For its part, however, Apple appears to be disputing that an official agreement has been made in this regard. Speaking to Gizmodo, a spokesperson for the iPhone maker said IHT was 'only citing French law, not Orange's intentions.'

Mass Apple Retail firings

Here's one that you may want to take with a grain of salt, but is interesting nonetheless. According to Ars's David Chartier, Apple may have recently fired as many as 800 of its retail store employees for taking advantage of the company's $100 iPhone credit program.

The backstory and rumor is essentially this: in June, all full-time Apple employees (including retail) were given free iPhones on the company's dime. Following the backlash from paying iPhone customers after September's unexpected $200 price cut on the handsets, Apple instated its $100 iPhone credit program which offered to reimburse early adopters with $100 Apple Store credits.

In order to receive this credit, all you needed was an active iPhone and AT&T contract. You simply typed your iPhone's phone number into a form on Apple.com. Apple then verified with its records that the phone number belonged to an active iPhone account and then sent a unique verification code via a text message to that iPhone. Once the text message was received and the unique code entered back into the form on Apple.com, a page containing a $100 credit number and barcode was made available for printing.

Well, it appears that Apple did not build a check —or was unable to build a check —into their $100 credit system to determine which iPhone accounts belonged to employees who were given a free phone and which did not.

So as Ars explains, some of those "lucky retail employees let their greed get the best of them" and were subsequently served with "pink iSlips" once Apple caught on to their little scam.