Is Apple going to buy Universal Records? Can I think of anything odder? It's true that Steve Jobs considers himself something of a player -- well, setting up a reasonably successful film studio in Pixar can't have hurt the man's ego -- and it's also true that Apple is preparing an online music operation. But if you're doing that, the last thing you want to do is buy a record company -- as Bertlesmann found when it got Napster. None of the other companies want anything to do with you, and where's the point in having a record shop with only one label in it? (Unless it's Warp, of course. But the thought of Richard D. James, aka the Aphex Twin, in charge of product development at Apple is not a good one). Nah, as far as can be ascertained it's a case of Apple going to Vivendi -- who owns Universal -- and offering money for back catalogue online distribution rights. Vivendi, keen to offload as much as possible in order to pay off its no-longer-trendy enormodebt, said "Why not take the lot?"; Apple went "Well, I'll think about that," at which point Vivendi leaked the best possible spin on the response in order to drive up the price with the other companies who are also sniffing around. Which may include Microsoft. Nice. In any case, Apple Records? Not the best of associations for a business.