In a statement early on Saturday morning, the firm said it was "in the best interests of Apple" that Gilbert Amelio, former chairman of chip maker National Semiconductor, take over as both chairman and chief executive.
Apple chairman Mike Mark-ulla will also step down but remain as vice- chairman.
Apple's troubles, first covered in depth in the UK by the Independent on Sunday in November, came to a head early last month, when it announced plans to lay off 1,600 staff after losses of $69m (pounds 45m) in the final quarter of 1995.
The company's revolutionary Macintosh computer has long been losing ground to rivals IBM and software giant Microsoft, and now has just 7 per cent of the world market - half its share in the late 1980s.
Last year, however, it wholly underestimated how popular its new IBM compatible Power Macintosh would be, leading to a $1bn order backlog.
Mr Spindler had long been under fire, but until yesterday had succeeded in ousting his critics instead, including chief financial officer Joe Graziano and marketing chief Dan Eilers, who quit last October and November.
The company is currently in takeover talks with Sun Microsystems, after Mr Spindler rebuffed an earlier approach from IBM, but Mr Amelio's appointment may put those on hold.
The latest move comes after two days of board meetings in New York, leading to intense speculation on the news that Mr Amelio had quit National Semiconductor on Friday.
"As an avid Apple user since the days of Apple II, I am delighted to be joining the management team of Apple, a company with an outstanding reputation for superior technology and customer loyalty," Mr Amelio said yesterday morning from California.
Aged 52, he joined National Semiconductor from electronics giant Rockwell in May 1991. A month later, he unveiled a radical revamp, closing factories and refocusing its micro-chip range. "If there is a person who comes immediately to mind as someone who has the experience in turning things around, Gil's name would top the list," said analyst Daniel Kunstler at bankers JP Morgan.Reuse content