Apple’s Steve Jobs has gone on record stating that Apple has “has never made any offer to invest in or acquire a major music company”. A statement which has a decent hint of ambiguity. If this were a statement intended to throw rival bidders off the scent then it would of course still leave the door open for a merger or a reverse take over. Though neither are particularly likely.
The most probable scenario is that Apple are in pretty advanced stages of negotiating some sort of digital distribution joint venture. So why did a senior Vivendi Universal executive go on record stating that Apple had made a bid, and also why did the Microsoft rumour emerge? Well, VU are in the middle of a painful restructuring process and are facing selling off core assets for considerably less than their market value. Unfortunately, everyone knows that VU have got to sell, which weakens the latter’s negotiating position. VU may now go on record to state that the exec was misquoted, but VU will continue to do their utmost to maximise the potential value of their saleable assets and their will be plenty more smoke before we see the fire.
For me though, the most interesting aspect of all this is whether the digital music service that probably lies behind all this is really worth the hype.