Network: What's in Steve's box of tricks?

Apple Computer's secret project - to develop a new multimedia player to sit on top of your TV set - has the computer industry's rumour mill buzzing. Cliff Joseph reports.

Apple Computer is never far from the headlines, but the latest bout of speculation about the company is even more fevered than usual.

The rumours focus on a project code-named Columbus. Initially, it was thought that Columbus was a set-top box that could be used to connect a television to the Internet. It now seems that Columbus refers to a whole range of consumer products being developed by Apple. That range does include a set-top box that goes by the name of AMP: the Apple Media Player.

Apple isn't the only company working on Internet set-top boxes. WebTV, a company backed by Microsoft, has gained a lot of attention and is preparing a trial service in the UK.

The Apple Media Player would be different, as it would act as a kind of general purpose entertainment device that could also play music CDs and films using the new DVD format.

It is the versatility of such a device that is creating so much interest. Film companies that release films on DVD disks could put Internet links on to the disks, and AMP would allow people to watch the film and then connect to Internet sites that sell film merchandise. Music companies could do similar things with audio CDs, linking CDs to Web sites that sell concert tickets or music videos.

Those sorts of marketing opportunities have attracted attention from Hollywood. There are rumours that Disney and Sony are about to launch takeover bids for Apple. A more likely outcome is an arrangement whereby Apple licenses its technology to companies that want to use it. But whether these rumours are true or not, Apple's share price has doubled since the beginning of the year. The Wall Street Journal has even made a "Buy" recommendation on the strength of the AMP rumours.

Apple has tried to keep these projects secret but it has stopped denying the existence of the Columbus and AMP projects. When questioned at a recent conference, Apple's CEO and co-founder, Steve Jobs, simply replied: "I can't talk about that stuff."

What Jobs has said, though, is that Apple will make a concerted effort to regain its position in the consumer market later this year. "Apple has not built a great consumer machine in the last several years, but you'll see that change this fall."

In addition to AMP, it is thought that Apple will be developing other consumer products, including a home computer priced at less than $1,000, and hand-held devices to replace the recently abandoned Newton. Speculation continues that Apple is developing a network computer (NC), but such a product would rely on Rhapsody, the server operating system that Apple is developing. Rhapsody is several months from completion, so an announcement on NCs does not seem imminent.

There is also renewed speculation about Steve Jobs himself. Jobs was ousted in a boardroom coup in the mid-1980s but returned to Apple last year, after mounting a coup of his own, but said that he would only accept the CEO position on an interim basis, in order to see Apple through its management crisis. Apple said that it would announce a permanent CEO, but Jobs appears reluctant to relinquish control. This has discouraged potential candidates, such as the former IBM man Jim Cannavino, who is said to be unhappy with the idea of remaining answerable to Jobs.

Apple's board has been negotiating with Jobs for several months in an attempt to get him to stay on full-time. Their latest offer is said to be worth $250m. Jobs has yet to respond and the board is getting impatient.

To top it all, Gil Amelio, who was toppled by Jobs last year, is about to publish a book about his time at Apple. It is expected to make savage criticisms of Jobs, but the recent turnaround in Apple's fortunes means that Jobs' position is stronger than ever.

Many of these rumours should be clarified next month. Product announcements are expected, and a shareholders' meeting will put pressure on Jobs to make his mind up about the CEO position. One thing' seems certain. Its recovery may not be complete, but after two years of crisis Apple is back in the game.

Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album