Meanwhile, on the hardware side: I got ahead of myself when I suggested that Apple might introduce a mini-tablet in San Francisco, but recent reports from my friends at DigiTimes and elsewhere bolster my belief that a multimedia-savvy, tablet-style device is fast approaching delivery. More immediately, Apple is apparently on the verge of releasing a next-generation, dockable iPod MP3 player that should coincide with the long-rumored debut of an Apple-branded music service. Following on the heels of .Mac, Apples enhanced, fee-based online service, the music service will apparently allow subscribers to preview and download songs from the major labels.This effort is a cornerstone of Apples rapidly expanding effort to define itself as an integral part of the multibillion-dollar music industryand reportedly led directly to the
much-reported discussions between Apple and Vivendi Universal about the former purchasing the latters Universal recording label for a rumored $6 billion.
While I wouldnt bet on this deal coming to passVivendi is reportedly approaching a variety of potential buyers, including MicrosoftApples apparent willingness to consider putting all its egg money into this basket speaks volumes about the companys ambitions. (Apple on Wednesday said it "never made any offer to invest in or acquire a major music company," a statement that creates a Humvee-size loophole for future offers.) For the past 25 years, Apple has based its corporate identity on maintaining a viable slice of the PC pie. Its latest Windows-rattling moves, and its efforts to extend the Mac paradigm to new devices, should help further that quarter-century tradition. By contrast, the Universal deal (or any comparable move to embrace content as well as technology) would radically change the Apple equation. Steve Jobs has on more than one occasion cited Sony as a role model for the current Apple regime; as Apples reach extends to consumer electronics and digital content, Jobs words seem more like a blueprint than a metaphor. Mac veteran Matthew Rothenberg is managing editor of Ziff Davis Internet.