Post-Jobs Cook drives Eddy Cue to lead the iCloud future

By Jonny Evans

Apple's [AAPL] recently-promoted Eddy Cue will lead what could be the company's biggest battle of this decade -- guiding the fruit-flavored firm as it cloud surfs into a brave new world of connected, location-sensitive, personalized devices for the ultimate in always-on computing, a service Apple calls, simply, iCloud.

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Cue the cloud

It would be unwise to underestimate new CEO, Tim Cook's move to promote Cue to Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services yesterday. Cue (above, pictured in Europe with his eyes glued on ex-CEO now chairman, Steve Jobs) carries the mantle of the departed leader and has been instrumental in developing the company's cloud solutions, by which I mean iTunes, the App Store and what was good about MobileMe. He also put together the first online Apple product store (originally a perfect example of a WebObjects implementation).

As Cook explained the promotion in an internal email:

Team,

It is my pleasure to announce the promotion of Eddy Cue to Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services. Eddy will report to me and will serve on Apple's executive management team.

Eddy oversees Apple's industry-leading content stores including the iTunes Store, the revolutionary App Store and the iBookstore, as well as iAd and Apple's innovative iCloud services. He is a 22-year Apple veteran and leads a large organization of amazing people. He played a major role in creating the Apple online store in 1998, the iTunes Music Store in 2003 and the App Store in 2008.

Apple is a company and culture unlike any other in the world and leaders like Eddy get that. Apple is in their blood. Eddy and the entire executive management team are dedicated to making the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.

Please join me in congratulating Eddy on this significant and well-deserved promotion. I have worked with Eddy for many years and look forward to working with him even closer in the future.

Tim
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[ABOVE: There's Eddy Cue...]

Cue -- Apple's cloud-surfer

Cue will lead Apple's cloud invasion.

This is something the company has been working toward for years. iCloud services will become an integral -- I believe essential -- to the company's success or failure. iCloud will link all your Apple devices, connect you to all your media and other content and will eventually enable a thin client computer vision that comes straight out of science fiction (subject to patents).

This is important, and already we see first signs that Google, among others, will need to stand up and fight Apple in this ring. Google chairman, Eric Schmidt yesterday explained:

"They will change the world. What I'm most excited about is what the next generation of entrepreneurs can do on top of these Cloud platforms. What I do know is that the next generation of these leaders will be something involving mobile, local, social."

This is where it gets interesting. Schmidt seemingly admits that Google's focus on the nerd ranch isn't always appropriate for a mass market computing age. "Engineers trying to solve technical problems have little experience of what consumer wants," he said.

And in a big nod to Steve Jobs, he also told the audience:

"Apple proves that if you organize around the consumer, the rest of it will follow. Try and figure out how to solve the consumer problem and then the revenue will show up. What [CEO] Steve [Jobs] has done in Apple is certainly the best CEO performance in the world in 50 years and maybe 100 yeas, because not only did he do this once, he did it twice."

Simplicity sells

Getting past Schmidt's obvious re-entry shock following his eviction from Job's so-called 'reality distortion field' (and it is a reality creation field, really, don't you think?), what does Cue bring?

Cue is no stranger to developing consumer-focused systems. Take a look at iTunes -- while derided by many, it has become the leading global music store and media service, partially on strength of the massive success of Apple's product design strategy.

That consumer-focused simplicity extends across the company's product range, including its own Internet services. It's central to any understanding of the work of Steve Jobs and the question, "what would Steve do?"

This is the challenge Cue is taking on as he joins Apple's senior executive team: He has to take on Google, Facebook, Amazon -- all the social networks, all the music-based services, the broadcast and TV industries.

While none of these campaigns should be seen as all-or-nothing, Apple does need to be a credible player. The newly-promoted exec sure carries a lot of weight on his shoulders.

Playing from strength

Advantages to his new role include the fact that iTunes is the leading store, Apple's huge big massive population of iPods and iOS devices and the growing marketshare of the Mac itself, even within a slowly shrinking PC market.

Cue will have to parlay these advantages to deliver an incredibly powerful and yet simple while also sophisticated suite of online services. Apple's focus is not just on providing the best products it can, but category-defining solutions on which it can pretty much set its price, so he must also ensure iCloud and future Internet software and services are world class, secure and uniquely satisfying experiences.

To help him, Cue has built a reputation as having an eye for detail, rather like his old boss. He's also described as being "warm," "unpretentious," and "quick to tell a joke". But he's also a devil at the negotiating table, as Hollywood, Tin Pan Alley and the publishing industry have reportedly found out. A keen eye for business and detail along with a proven technology track record will be the strengths Cue brings to Apple's battle for the clouds.

Team Apple

Apple's Tim Cook will shore up this strength with his own operational excellence, with executives across the hardware, mobile and software teams all working to ensure that Apple's cloud isn't like any other cloud. What the history of the next decade or so of technology will show us is if Apple's efforts are enough. Certainly, once the iCloud is switched-on, Apple cannot afford the kind of fracas that greeted the original launch of MobileMe.

Apple-watchers await this next chapter with bated breath, as the company drives Cue forward to play the next frame.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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