Why Eddy Cue is the right guy to fix Maps and Siri

Senior Vice President Eddy Cue is known as the fixer at Apple, a reputation he built back in 2008, when Steve Jobs appointed him head of iTunes and online services after giving Apple’s cloud team a serious dressing down over the MobileMe(ss) debacle. This 23-year Apple veteran immediately retired the flaky service, built iCloud from the ground up and took control of Apple’s iTunes and App Store infrastructure.

Last September, CEO Cook appointed Cue Apple’s new SVP of of Internet Software and Services, the role that encompasses the iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, as well as the iAd advertising platform and iCloud services.

Monday, Cue assumed Maps and Siri responsibilities after Cook fired iOS chief Scott Forstall for shipping buggy software prematurely, clashing with his peers and refusing to apologize personally for Mapgate (it was Cook who eventually signed the public apology instead). We, of course, already knew all of the above. Today, CNET runs an interesting profile which reveals a couple previously unknown tidbits about this able exec…

The lengthy article paints Cue as a tough negotiator who keeps pesky music and movie executives at bay while managing to cut lucrative iTunes media deals across entertainment industries – not surprising knowing he has a “high degree of social intelligence”, according to a former Apple employee.

“A diehard Duke University basketball fan, sports car collector, and studious avoider of the spotlight”, Cue is 48 years old and of Cuban-American origin. Five years ago, he prevented a feud between Apple and record labels from collapsing when the sides almost “went nuclear”.

“We all got nukes and we all can terminate at any time”, he told the labels who wanted to pull their music from iTunes over fixed pricing policy.

A music industry exec recalls:

Ever since he did that, the relationships have fared so much better. You have a point in time when everyone was going to draw their weapons, but the extremely shrewd way Eddy handled it took all the fight out of the industry’s sword rattlers.

Another music exec negotiated with Cue’s feet:

“He knows the power he has over people that want to sell through his store and the power he has over the music labels,” said one music vendor, who remembers trying to get Cue to come down on the 30 percent fee Apple requires to offer apps on iTunes and Cue literally sat back in his chairs and put his feet up on his table. “It’s good to be Apple. Though it’s difficult to negotiate with someone’s feet.”

In February, Cue accepted a special Grammy Award honoring Steve Jobs and gave this speech.

Those who had an opportunity to witness contract negotiations with the labels firsthand say that “Eddy did a lot of bad cop” to Steve Jobs, the good cop.

Here’s an interesting anecdote.

In April 2006, Warner Music Group, one of the top four record companies, held an internal event near Palm Springs, Calif., for those who worked in the label’s “artists & repertoire” unit and other creative departments, according to people with knowledge of the event. One of the guest speakers was Cue.

At the time, negotiations between Warner and Apple over renewing iTunes’ music licenses had stalled. The Warner execs thought they had the ideal opportunity to persuade Cue to relent on key negotiating points.

So that’s how the labels negotiate…

According to sources who spoke with CNET, an hour before Cue was to take the stage, the Warner execs met with him and made an offer they had convinced themselves couldn’t be refused. Like all the other top labels, Warner wanted price flexibility at iTunes and also wanted the store opened up to digital music players other than those built by Apple. At the time, all iTunes songs sold for 99 cents and played only on iPods.

Cue listened quietly while the Warner executives informed him that all songs were not created equal and prices should reflect that. They pressed him, saying they couldn’t accept Apple’s terms and time was short because their contract was due to expire soon.

Like they would ever pull their content from the world’s top destination for digital music.

But as soon as the Warner execs finished, Cue said calmly and without hesitation that Apple wasn’t going to give in to their demands. If the contract expired without a new deal in place then Apple would simply pull their songs from iTunes.

He got up and made his speech.

He made his speech right there and then? Wow.

Warner renewed its iTunes deal and song prices remained unchanged at Apple’s music store for another three years.

There’s lots more to find out in this great write-up by author Greg Sandoval so make sure to hit the source link for more.

Summing up, it’s interesting that Cue is listed right next to Apple’s number one man, Tim Cook, on the company’s Executive Profiles page.

That has got to be worth something, no?