IN a surprise boardroom shake-up, Apple Computer chairman John Sculley has relinquished his role as chief executive to pursue computer-based technologies. Mr Sculley, 54, retains the title of chairman, but hands over the day-to-day executive control and the chief executive job to Apple president Michael Spindler. Mr Sculley, who joined Apple 10 years ago from soft drink firm Pepsi, quickly becoming one of the industry's best known faces, has said he would direct his energy to creating new markets for the computer maker, in concert with communications, publishing and entertainment companies. Mr Sculley acknowledged that harmonising the present and the future was more than one executive could handle. ''It was just too much bandwidth - too many things have to be done,'' Mr Sculley said. ''I recommended to the board that the job had to be separated into two positions.'' Mr Sculley said he would be free to plot a strategy and build the alliances that he viewed were necessary in the convergence of technologies and markets that promised to blend publishing, communications, computing and entertainment in the not-so-distant future. The announcement came one week after Apple warned that the price war in the computer industry had continued to erode Apple's profits. The announcement also fuelled speculation that Apple would undertake cost-cutting and lay-offs - possibly starting as early as this week. It is thought that as many as 2,000 staff could be sacked from the company's United States and European organisations, though Hongkong-based Far East executives said staff reductions would not be extended to Asia. The company employs about 14,000 people worldwide. Mr Spindler, 50, has a reputation as a no-nonsense manager who is willing to make tough cuts. He was originally hired in 1980 by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as marketing manager in Europe. He become chief operating officer in 1990. Mr Spindler has been a more active international traveller than Mr Sculley, particularly to Asia. Mr Sculley had not visited the region since 1986. Mr Spindler visited Hongkong last November and in March, and is expected again later this year. In recent years, he has also spent time in Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand. Apple's Far East managing director, William James, said the company would probably increase its staff in the region this year. Mr James said Apple would open an office in Beijing this year to support growing sales. The company started to compete price-wise in China for the first time in March when it launched a low-cost Macintosh LCII system bundled with a Chinese versions of the System 7.1 operating system, ClarisWorks and Chinese TrueType fonts. Mr James said sales in Asia this year had exceeded expectations. He said aggressive pricing in the region in coming months would continue to spur unit and revenue growth. Apple's manufacturing plant in Singapore - which is a three-shift, 24-hour-day operation - is currently expanding production, and no lay offs are planned. The factory, which employs 800 full-time and 1,400 temporary staff, previously produced only low-end Macintosh machines and peripheral devices like monitors and printers, but is being ramped up to produce the entire line of Macintosh systems. But where Apple seems to be doing well in the Far East, the US and Europe have been hit hard by the personal computer (PC) price war, which has reduced profits and market share. Apple's anguish has also been caused by the giant step it has been taking from its personal computer past to the multimedia world envisioned by Mr Sculley. One alliance that had been rumoured to be in the works was a co-operative effort between Apple and A T& T. Neither company would comment. In his 10 years at Apple, Mr Sculley has been able to blend the original ''computing for the masses'' visions of the company's co-founders, Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, with a more sophisticated appeal that has given the computer maker access to corporate markets. Originally hired by Mr Jobs, who persuaded him that he could ''help change the world'', Mr Sculley forced Mr Jobs out as the chief executive of the company in 1985 after Macintosh sales failed to meet expectations.