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Ex-CEO Sculley Says TV Market Is Apple’s ‘Game to Lose’

Ex-Apple CEO Sculley Says TV Market Is Company’s ‘Game to Lose
Sculley became Apple Inc.’s CEO in 1983 and was running the company when Steve Jobs, a co-founder, walked out two years later. Photographer: Andrew Serban/Bloomberg

Former Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Sculley, the man who presided over the company when Steve Jobs left in 1985, said a move into the television market is “Apple’s game to lose.”

Apple already has a foothold in smartphones, tablets and computers, giving it an edge in trying to take control of consumers’ living rooms, he said in an interview. Sculley, who stepped down as CEO in 1993, has no inside knowledge of the company’s strategy.

“They own three screens -- the mobile phone, tablet and computer -- and you can see how important it is to them to own the fourth, which is TV,” said Sculley, who now runs an investment firm and is chairman of 3Cinteractive LLC, a mobile-software developer.

Apple is in talks with at least one of the largest U.S. cable companies about teaming up on a product to carry live television and other content, a person with knowledge of the discussions said. Customers would be able to use an Apple-designed device to access their set of channels instead of leasing a set-top box from cable companies for a monthly fee, said the person, who asked not to be named because the talks are private. No deal has been reached, the person said.

Tom Neumayr, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment.

‘Ecosystem’ Advantage

Apple’s iPhone is the best-selling smartphone in the U.S., and the iPad controls 70 percent of the tablet market. This “ecosystem” is a huge advantage over competitors, Sculley said. Apple’s core principle has been improving the user experience and keeping that experience consistent across different devices, he said.

“People don’t realize how huge this is,” he said. “Microsoft wanted the living room, Sony wanted the living room, and so far both have failed.”

Sculley became Apple’s CEO in 1983 and was running the company when Jobs, a co-founder, walked out two years later. Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and embarked on a comeback that eventually turned it into the world’s most valuable company.

Apple shares rose 1.8 percent to $648.11 yesterday, reaching an all-time high. The stock has advanced 60 percent this year.

No one other than Steve Jobs, with his intense product focus, could have turned Apple around, said Sculley, who hasn’t read Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography of Jobs.

“I lived it -- I don’t need to relive it,” he said.

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