Apple Picks Wal-Mart Exec for Head of Movies and TV. Um, What?


So Apple’s gone and hired an international head of movies and television. Great. With iTunes rentals just starting in the U.S., and Jobs stating he wants to take it international very soon, this is a positive sign. Still, their hire is a bit, well, surprising to me.

The man they chose is Kevin Swint, head of the digital media market at Wal-Mart. That’s right, Wal-Mart:

  • Our-video-store-didn’t-work-with-Macs Wal-Mart.
  • We-love-Microsoft-and-their-DRM Wal-Mart.
  • For-music-we-prefer-three-ways Wal-Mart.

It’s hard not to read this news with anything but a puzzled expression. I mean, Wal-Mart’s digital media is a bust. Their online music, despite including some Universal DRM-free titles, has gone nowhere. And as for video — you know, the thing Apple hired Swint for — after months of failure Wal-Mart had to shutdown their online store!

Regarding that online video store, Swint presided over all of it! From an interview a year ago:

“We’ve been working on this in a pretty intensive way for almost a year now,” says Swint. “I think all the studios understood quickly what we were trying to do.”

Wal-Mart is using PlaysForSure DRM so is limited to IE and PlaysForSure devices/PC for now. Swint: “We’re focusing on the device-space we can serve in the current market.

Clearly, with the store’s shutdown a year later the whole thing was a disaster. Why is Apple picking this guy up?

It’s certainly not for me to argue with how Apple’s management team chooses to bring in another member. They’re a great team, and I’m sure know how to pick ’em. I can only assume they see someone who’s brilliant mind and ideas were simply ignored by Wal-Mart’s top brass, hence the abject failure of Wal-Mart’s digital video initiative.

I certainly hope that’s the case. Going by what a regular guy like myself can see, anyone associated with Wal-Mart’s digital moves would be avoided at all costs.

6 thoughts on “Apple Picks Wal-Mart Exec for Head of Movies and TV. Um, What?

  1. One thing Apple knows how to do is groom its employees. This guy has contacts and has been through it. The WalMart model may not have been the best thing but who’s to say that was his fault? With the right model AND leadership he may excel.

  2. I had the same first impression…loser. But in realty, there’s probably few with the right knowledge/experience out there in the potential pool. Maybe he learned from his failure and I’ll bet Jobs is a lot more decisive than the the Walmart execs.

  3. Zaxzan,

    I appreciate your comments. As I said, I do trust Apple’s management team to make a good choice.

    However, I think I’d be remiss in not at least mentioning what we DO know of Swint’s CV, given that all of the Mac (and much non-Mac) press had railed against the Wal-Mart video store when it opened, and danced around its grave at its death.

  4. Quite possibly, at one point while Swint was at WalMart, he met with Apple about using FairPlay but was rebuffed by Apple (thus his comment about “device-space we can serve”). But in sharing WalMart’s plans, he may have impressed Apple with his command of the whole digital movie space, such as working with studios and negotiating the complex maze of distribution rights.

    I doubt they’re hiring him as a technologist or to develop iTunes. He’s certainly there to handle the business end of the movie distribution business.

  5. Tom, Tom, Tom.

    Please don’t stoop to the same level of the knuckle-heads that you regularly bring to heel, as that would diminish your character.

    One should not denounce a person until holding ALL the facts and knowing the truth.

    While I can see where you are coming from, it is absolutely ridiculous of you to be casting aspersions about someone, who you admit to knowing little about.

    If Kevin Swint makes a balls-up of it with the power of Cupertino behind him, then – armed with all the pertinent facts, go for it.

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