During Apple's e-book price-fixing case on Thursday, Apple executive Eddy Cue testified that Steve Jobs initially wasn't interested in getting into the e-book market at all. Lucky for us, All Things D was on hand to capture all of the courtroom details describing the backstory behind Apple's eventual foray into the e-book market.
Cue explained that when he first approached Jobs and broached the topic of getting Apple into the e-book business, Jobs wasn't on board.
"He wasn't interested," Cue explained. "Steve never felt that the Mac or the iPhone were ideal reading devices. In the case of the phone, the screen was smaller, and in the case of the Mac, you had this keyboard and device, and it didn't feel like a book."
The iPad, however, was a game changer.
When Cue first began using the iPad in the months before Apple publicly unveiled the device, he immediately recognized the potential for it to become a wildly successful and popular e-reader.
So with the iPad unveiling steadily approaching, Cue in the fall of 2009 said that he approached Jobs yet again with the idea of getting into the e-book market.
And so I went to Steve and told him why I thought [the iPad] was going to be a great device for e-books ... and after some discussions he came back and said, you know, I think you're right. I think this is great, and then he started coming up with ideas himself about what he wanted to do with it and how it would be even better as a reader and store.
Cue noted that Jobs finally came around to the idea of an iBookstore in November 2009. Now bear in mind that Apple first introduced the iPad in January 2010, meaning that Cue, Apple's chief content negotiator, was left with little to no time to secure deals with major publishing companies as Jobs wanted to demo Apple's new e-book initiative on stage for the world to see.
Of particular interest was Cue's testimony detailing how he was especially motivated to secure content deals ahead of the iPad's introduction on account of Jobs' worsening health.
Steve was near the end of his life when we were launching the iPad, and he was really proud of it. He was working hard on it. I believed that iBooks was going to be a tremendous feature of the product. People were going to love it; our customers were just going to go wild about iPad and iBooks, and I wanted to be able to get that done in time because it was really important to him ... I like getting my work done and I pride myself on being successful, but this had extra meaning to me.
Now aside from the usual intrigue typically associated with discovering what goes on behind the scenes at 1 Infinite Loop, I find this whole story noteworthy for two reasons.
First, this isn't the first time we've heard a story about Cue successfully convincing Jobs to move Apple in a particular direction. During last summer's Apple / Samsung trial, emails came to light which revealed that Cue had been pushing Jobs to release an iPad with a smaller form factor as early as 2010.
In a January 2011 email sent out to members of Apple's executive team, Cue wrote:
I believe there will be a 7-inch market and we should do one. I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time. I found email, books, Facebook and video very compelling on a 7''. Web browsing is definitely the weakest point, but still usable.
Apple would of course go onto announce the iPad mini in October 2012.
Second, the story provides further proof that Apple is teeming with talented employees and that the company is poised to succeed even in the absence of Jobs. While Jobs was a visionary without compare, the stories above illustrate that Jobs sometimes needed a bit of convincing before deciding where the "puck was going." In short, the notion that an Apple without Jobs is destined for failure is ridiculous. Indeed, one of the reasons Jobs was able to successfully bring Apple back from the brink of bankruptcy was precisely because he surrounded himself with top-tier talent.
To that end, this old quote from Jobs regarding his hiring philosophy is worth a mention:
... you're well advised to go after the cream of the cream. That's what we've done. You can then build a team that pursues the A+ players. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players. That's what I've tried to do.