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Jeudi, 01 Septembre 2011 20:10

Apple Shakeup Reinforces Its Media-Partner Power

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Apple Shakeup Reinforces Its Media-Partner Power

Eddie Cue, Senior VP of Internet Software and Services, Apple, Inc.

With Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO, who will be granted the power to bend media companies to Apple’s will, upending whole industries and creating new ecosystems along the way?

Okay, that’s not exactly what “Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services of Apple, Inc.” officially entails. But that’s what Apple needs, and that’s a big reason why Eddy Cue, formerly an Apple VP and head of iTunes, has been promoted to that spot. He’ll be reporting directly to new CEO Tim Cook, in Cook’s first big reshaping of the organizational chart since becoming the company’s top executive.

9to5Mac posted a copy of Cook’s email to Apple employees announcing Cue’s promotion and detailing his responsibilities:

Eddy oversees Apple’s industry-leading content stores including the iTunes Store, the revolutionary App Store and the iBookstore, as well as iAd and Apple’s innovative iCloud services.

He is a 22-year Apple veteran and leads a large organization of amazing people. He played a major role in creating the Apple online store in 1998, the iTunes Music Store in 2003 and the App Store in 2008.

Apple is a company and culture unlike any other in the world and leaders like Eddy get that. Apple is in their blood…

Please join me in congratulating Eddy on this significant and well-deserved promotion. I have worked with Eddy for many years and look forward to working with him even closer in the future.

The promotion is significant in part because it comes from the side of Apple’s business Cook is least well-known for and had the least amount of direct responsibility for as Apple’s Chief Operating Officer.

On Monday, I wrote that Steve Jobs’ experience with and understanding of media creation, particularly as CEO of Pixar, helped make Apple different from and gave the company key advantages over other computer companies at different points in its history.

This gap in experience is also the most relevant distinction between Jobs and Tim Cook:

While [Cook] can easily coordinate design, engineering, business and product development, he doesn’t have a proven track record translating between technology and the creative industries.

In fact, now that Jobs has stepped down, nobody in Apple’s top-level executive team does. That is, at least not anyone with nearly the same force and visibility Jobs was able to bring to bear.

What’s more, if you drill down to the VP level, there’s nobody whose titular responsibilities include media partnerships… Apple certainly has a directly responsible individual, or DRI in company parlance, for its different media partnerships, as it does for everything else in the company. But the visible face of its media efforts and strongest voice in intercompany negotiations has always been Steve Jobs.

It turns out that the executive I’d most overlooked in this analysis, and the DRI for most of these partnerships, was iTunes and Internet Services VP Eddy Cue — one of just six non-senior vice presidents who reported directly to Jobs.

Besides iTunes, Cue has run the App Store and the iBooks store. In the past, he’s announced key magazine partnerships between Apple and News Corp as well as Condé Nast. When gearing up for major negotiations with entertainment studios and media companies, Cue has been Apple’s primary point person, second only to Steve Jobs.

In a February 2010 profile, Fast Company declared that “Steve Jobs may own the limelight, but Eddy Cue, 46, holds the key to the Apple kingdom“:

Cue runs arguably the most disruptive 21st-century Web businesses: iTunes and the App Store, the latter of which is poised to create a $4 billion app economy by 2012. The unassuming Cue shot up through Apple’s ranks in the late ’80s, going from desktop support to Hollywood power broker, cutting deals for movies and music. Cue’s next campaign will be challenging Amazon’s Kindle dominance, with the Cupertino cocktail of the iPad and the iBook store.

So that’s music, movies, radio, TV, software, books, newspapers and magazines — virtually all of the media that flows into Apple’s range of post-PC devices, from PCs and phones to tablets and televisions, reinforcing their owners’ continued attachment to those devices. It’s all of the content and all of the non-technological partnerships that Microsoft or Google or Samsung or RIM has never been able to match.

On top of that, Cue also has responsibility for Apple’s iAd in-app advertising platform, and iCloud’s syncing and storage services for both Mac and iOS.

In short — and please forgive me for pushing this terminology still further — while almost everything else about Apple is comparatively traditional for the PC and consumer electronics industries, everything Cue is charged with is post-PC: syncing multiple devices running client applications over the cloud to support consumer media consumption with targeted advertising, all running through a single software portal. His division will be the key vector that tells you where Apple and much of the rest of the technology and media industry are going to go.

Promoting Cue to senior VP sends a message to both Apple’s media partners and competitors that even without Jobs at the top, Apple’s disruption of media industries and sharing of profits with its partners will continue. It says Cue is just as important inside Apple as Jony Ive or Phil Schiller, Apple executives that even people outside the tech industry know. We’re going to be seeing him on stage at more Apple events. Probably a lot of them.

But as Peter Kafka writes at AllThingsD, it’s not clear precisely how much authority Tim Cook will delegate to Cue, or if Cook intends to play as strong of a role in media partnerships and negotiations as Jobs did. So the reception of that message depends on whether its targets think that even with extra clout, Cue will be able to bring the same authority to bear with Cook as CEO as Cue and Steve Jobs were able to do together. If not, then the balance between media creators and platform owners could shift again.

Sure, it’s inside baseball: but sometimes, that’s the only way you can learn how the game will play out.

Follow us for disruptive tech and media news: Tim Carmody and Epicenter on Twitter; Tim Carmody on Google+.


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