If it weren't for that damn iPad...

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, went to bat Thursday for his company and his former boss, Steve Jobs, testifying in a Manhattan courtroom that Apple never conspired with publishers to jack up e-book prices. The feds claim the Cupertino tech giant did precisely that, calling its negotiations with publishers an illegal salvo against rival Amazon, which had been aggressively low-balling its prices on e-books.

But in one of the more interesting exchanges, Cue described how Jobs never even wanted to dip his toes into the e-book market — that is until Cue got his hands on the about-to-be-released iPad and convinced his boss the device would be a made-in-heaven platform for book-reading..

As CNET reported:

Even before the iPad launched, Cue was certain Apple should have a bookstore for its iPhone and Macs, but Jobs believed those products weren’t ideal for reading.

“What happened was when I got my first chance to touch and play with the iPad … I became convinced this was a huge opportunity for us to build the best e-reader the market has ever seen,” Cue said during questioning by Apple defense attorney Orin Snyder.
He came back and said it was great,” Cue said.

Jobs in November of 2009 gave Cue the go-ahead to pursue the market, leaving him only a couple months to make content deals ahead of the iPad announcement in January.

“Steve said it’s fine, go do this, but get the deals done in January so I can demo it on stage,” Cue said.

The pressure was on in more ways than one. The big iPad launch was looming on the horizon. And Jobs was dying of pancreatic cancer.

“He was near the end of his life near the launch of the iPad,” Cue said. “I wanted to get that on time because it was important to him.”

The revelation about how Jobs was swayed to open up an e-bookstore came against the larger legal backdrop, as government lawyers questioned the top Apple executive to testify so far about the negotiations between Apple and major book publishers that resulted in allegations of price-fixing.

The five publishers- – Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Holtzbrinck Publishers, doing business as Macmillan, and The Penguin PublishingCo.Ltd., doing business as the Penguin Group — settled before the non-jury trial got underway. But Apple chose to defend itself in court, denying claims that its agreements required publishers to force Amazon to charge more for e-books.

Cue is scheduled to take the witness stand again on Monday. Closing arguments are scheduled for late next week.

 

 

Patrick May Patrick May (313 Posts)

With more than 30 years on the front line of daily American journalism, I'm currently a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News, covering Apple and writing people-centric business stories from Silicon Valley.