NEWS about Apple Computer has become an industry in itself, with the already high-profile company the subject of more speculation than ever. Headlining gossip sheets now is speculation about the company's new chairman, Mike Markkula, who is a co-founder. Having only just taken the reins from the long-time boss, John Sculley, Mr Markkula's tenure, according to Apple watchers, will more likely be measured in months, than years. Apparently, Mr Markkula, who is said to be one of the wealthiest and most private men in the computer industry, has offered his services only on an interim basis. It is his second time in the job; he held the post before Mr Sculley. Mr Markkula is said to have wielded enormous power and influence from a less visible position in the boardroom, anyway. And Apple's preference (and probably Mr Markkula's) would appear to be in finding someone who both relishes the spotlight that only an Apple chairman can generate. That person would also play a more pivotal role in shaping the company's future technology, and cutting the co-operative deals that will push Apple towards those technologies. WHILE the rest of the PC industry has swung resources towards the high end of the market where the margins are sweetest, the retail chain, ComputerLand, has bucked conventional thinking. It has drawn up plans for Hong Kong and China to target the market's bottom-end - where the bloodiest battles are fought in price wars, and where margins are razor thin. The first shot in the Clone Wars in China has just been fired. ComputerLand already sells a large range of name-brand PCs in China (Compaq and Hewlett-Packard among them). Now, it wants to bring base-level systems to compete directly against the low-cost, low-profit clone PCs - an area of the market the big players tend to avoid. And, by low-end, ComputerLand is talking cheap. Its offering is to be sold under the brand name Maple. It will be based on the 386SX processor and have two MB of RAM, a colour VGA screen, 1.44 MB and 1.2 MB floppy disk drives and an 80 MB drive. This is not exactly an over-powered PC, but at $5,300 ComputerLand expects them to ship in large quantities, especially in China, in the home and small business market as well as network workstations. Clones may be cheap, but according to International Data Corporation figures quoted by ComputerLand, the ''no names'' make up 30 per cent of the China market by value. It estimates the China clone market at more than US$81 million. Margins are tight, but ComputerLand maintains the low-end is the fastest growing market segment, and, therefore, a natural target for exploitation. It has already started to build franchises and service and support infrastructure for the Maple system in China, where it has no shortage of experience. And it also has no shortage of incentive to succeed there. Until very recently a ComputerLand Hong Kong sister company, Eekon Enterprises, was a distributor for Compaq in China and a very successful one at that. Now, after a much publicised and bitter feud, Eekon and Compaq are before the courts. Eekon alleged it had been ''squeezed'' out of the market. ComputerLand, however, saw no reason to drop Compaq from its line, even after its kindred company's relationship with Compaq had come to grief.