NEW YORK — Apple is in hot water over its digital bookstore, but late-CEO Steve Jobs initially didn’t even want to enter that market, a high-level Apple executive said Thursday.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, on Thursday testified in district court in lower Manhattan that he had to convince Jobs to let him pursue an e-bookstore. 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.
Cue said he sent Jobs an e-mail that outlined the benefits of e-books on the iPad and then met with him to talk about it.
“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.
Cue’s testimony marks a pivotal point in the trial, in which the Justice Department is attempting to prove that Apple’s deals with the publishers artificially inflated e-book prices. Apple has maintained it has done nothing wrong.
Cue is the highest-ranking Apple executive to testify during the trial. The Justice Department has portrayed Cue as the “chief ringleader of the conspiracy” to control e-book pricing, and it has said his testimony would show Apple colluded with the publishers to boost digital-book prices and hurt rivals such as Amazon. Conversely, Apple’s attorneys are counting on Cue to reinforce their defense that Apple’s actions simply were standard negotiation tactics.
Though Jobs died in October of 2011, his internal e-mails and discussions and public comments have played a key role in both the U.S. government’s e-book price-fixing suit against Apple and in Apple’s own defense. The Department of Justice several times has cited Jobs’ remarks as evidence that Apple knew that what it was doing with publishers would force Amazon and other retailers to change their deal terms. But Apple’s defense has argued that it’s difficult to interpret someone who can no longer explain himself.
Cue served as Jobs’ right-hand man in Apple’s content businesses for 16 years. He noted during questioning that the two men worked closely together to move Apple into new markets, such as e-books.
“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.”
Cue will take the stand again on Monday. Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for a week from today.