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September 5, 2018

Former Apple Employees on Eddy Cue: Siri and Eddy Were ‘A Bad Fit’ and He is ‘Always Doing Too Many Things’

by John_A

A new profile on Apple chief Eddy Cue has been shared online today by The Information, highlighting Cue’s history and leadership at the company, as well as a few of his more interesting quirks. Specifically, the story looks at Apple’s services segment — which Cue oversees — and some of the missteps it has taken over the years, despite being a consistent revenue earner for the company.

According to analyst James McQuivey, Apple’s services business “has been the biggest opportunity that Apple has misspent for the last ten years.” Issues include the company’s need to play catchup with Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify in streaming TV and music, fading into irrelevance in the eBooks category, and ongoing struggles with Apple Maps and Siri, the latter of which Cue no longer is responsible for.

Eddy Cue at Re/code’s Code Conference in 2014
As he looked into Cue’s history with Apple, The Information’s Aaron Tilley interviewed more than two dozen people who have worked with Cue. While some describe him “as a leader of intelligence and empathy,” others say he “seems overextended” and has “failed to intercede in conflicts.” Specifically, one former Apple employee gave an example related to the early days of Apple Music, ultimately claiming that Cue is “always doing too many things.”

But others who have worked with him say he seems overextended and, at important moments, has failed to intercede in conflicts—for instance, during the creation of the company’s subscription music service, Apple Music, when former employees of Beats, which Apple acquired, battled with counterparts at iTunes.

“Apple tries to do too much with too few people,” said one former Apple executive, who like most people interviewed for this story requested anonymity to avoid the disfavor of one of the tech industry’s most powerful companies. “That sometimes backfires. Eddy is the best example of that at Apple. He’s always doing too many things.”

According to former employees, Cue “seemed to lack much interest in [Siri]” from “the moment he gained responsibility.” During meetings about technical data for Siri’s performance, Cue “seemed to fall asleep in at least two meetings.” Siri leadership recently moved to Craig Federighi and is now under John Giannandrea.

“Putting Siri under Eddy was a bad fit to begin with,” said one former Siri engineer. “I don’t think he ever had a great deal of interest.”

The profile also looks at Apple’s entry into streaming music, following former CEO Steve Jobs’ derision of the idea of renting music. Apple reportedly “fought tooth and nail” to keep Spotify out of the United States following its debut in Europe, with Jobs going so far as to privately threaten Universal Music by stating Apple would remove its content from iTunes if it worked with Spotify in the U.S.

Following his death in the fall of 2011, Cue decided that Apple had to shift its music business to streaming somehow, ultimately spearheading the largest acquisition in Apple’s history with the purchase of Beats for $3 billion. Following the deal, one former Beats employee who joined Apple told The Information that it eventually became clear that “Apple was under-resourced to manage this.”

Moreover, the two companies clashed so much about decisions over how Beats Music would transition into Apple Music, “there were almost literally fistfights over design aspects, features, aesthetics,” one person said. “They all hated each other.” Amid all of this, Cue’s leadership style was put into question:

As tensions mounted on the Apple Music team, Mr. Cue, who was known for his hands-off leadership style, was rarely seen by the team working on the project, said people working on the streaming service. “One downside with Eddy as a manager was that it’s unlikely for Eddy to mediate between warring factions,” said one former lieutenant. “If there were conflicts or tensions between groups, Eddy didn’t get involved.”

Looking ahead, The Information says that Cue’s “biggest test yet” will be Apple’s streaming TV service. In meetings, Cue is said to have discussed the possibility of making the Apple TV app available beyond Apple’s own devices — even on smart TVs and Android — in an effort to make sure its shows are seen as widely as possible. This also hints that Apple is considering making the TV app the location of its original TV shows, which has been suggested in the past.

The rest of The Information’s profile on Eddy Cue is available to read if you have a subscription.

Tag: Eddy Cue
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