Apple update: Jobs - will he, won't he?

Apple Computer Inc.'s interim CEO sure does enjoy playing coy.

Even as two newspapers reported Wednesday that co-founder Steve Jobs has turned down an offer to become permanent CEO of Apple, the man himself wasn't making any such proclamations.

Apple spokeswoman Katie Cotton said today that nothing has changed - Jobs is still the interim CEO, and the Apple board expects to announce a new CEO by the end of the year.

"We haven't said otherwise, and Steve hasn't said otherwise," said Cotton.

Meanwhile, Apple's board was meeting today in a regularly scheduled session, but Cotton would not reveal the agenda.

The issue is likely to move from simmer to boil on Monday, when Jobs is scheduled to host a press conference announcing several new Macintosh models and business strategy changes. Jobs is sure to be asked if is hat is in or out of the ring - or somewhere in between.

Jobs, who co-founded the company in 1976 with Steve Wozniak, returned to Apple four months ago. It's believed he engineered the ouster of then-CEO Gilbert Amelio, and subsequently stepped in as interim CEO.

But Jobs is also CEO and chairman of Pixar Animation Studios Inc., and press reports say that is where Jobs will continue to put his full-time energy after the listing Apple ship is righted.

At least one industry expert who watches Apple closely said he believes Jobs has a favoured candidate already and that he expects Jobs and the CEO search team to stage a dramatic unveiling once someone is selected.

"The word is that Steve's apparently got somebody he's real hot on," said Timothy Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a consulting firm based in San Jose.

Given Jobs' "flair for drama," he said, the board may build suspense for the new chief executive by crowning the new executive around the time of its MacWorld trade show in San Francisco in January.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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