Just last year I sat in the front row and listened to Mark Cuban (the genius of the content delivery business and consequently rich guy too) respond to questions at the first Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. About half way through his session, someone called out “Apple Computer.” Mark shot back, “niche player.” He went on to say that Apple will never hit the big time because they don’t think big enough. I guess thinking big is not the same as think different.
Mark Cuban on stage at the 2004 Web 2.0 Conference.
Now don’t get me wrong. I dig Mark Cuban. My favorite quote by him is: “If you look around the bargaining table and you don’t see the sucker, guess what? It’s you.” That’s great stuff. And today he was quoted in a CRN story as saying, “(ABC’s) Bob Iger has enabled a new revenue stream, which if it grows, could definitely be the revenue stream that saves primetime network TV.” (I think Bob Iger is the CEO of Disney, which owns ABC, but I could be foggy on that. Cuban didn’t say “ABC” to my knowledge, that must have been added by an editor.)
According to the story, Cuban appears to think that Apple is the initiator on this TV deal, but won’t necessarily dominate as they have with music. “Distribution must expand beyond Apple, and it will. It will be interesting to see how fast MicroSoft, Yahoo, Google, Sony (If Sony had an ITunes and an ABC deal for the PSP..wow !), AOL and even retailers like Walmart Online and Best Buy respond. Which they will. They arent going to let Apple run away with this market like they did music.”
I can’t verify these quotes because I didn’t actually hear Mark say them, but the words do sound like his.
A lot of people must agree that Apple is on to something here. Stock closed today at $54. It’s gone up nearly $5 a share since the announcements at the “One More Thing…” event on Wednesday. These are the same investors who dumped Apple stock a few days before because despite having one of its best quarters ever, it didn’t meet their “expectations.” This is a tough crowd.
And so is Mark Cuban. He didn’t get rich by being nice. So, does he still think Apple’s a niche player? Possibly. Between opinions of industry giants such as he, and those demanding investors, you can see how brutal this game is. And yet, Apple keeps rolling along.
So my question is: is it really a niche when you’re a billion dollar company? Man, this is a high stakes game.