Apple executives to take stand in antitrust trial

Apple's top executives are scheduled to take the stand Thursday in the ongoing iPod antitrust trial, with $1 billion in damages hanging in the balance.

The schedule of witnesses include Eddy Cue, who oversees iTunes, and is expected to testify about the tech giant's competition. Following his testimony, Phil Schiller, Apple's head of marketing, will testify about sales and pricing of iPods.

A video deposition from the late Steve Jobs will also be shown to jurors, though that evidence will likely be presented Friday. (You can read a transcript of his testimony, which Apple released Wednesday, here.) The company fought hard to keep Jobs from being deposed because he was on medical leave at the time. He would pass away just six months after delivering this deposition.

The case centers around an iPod update in 2006. After that change, music from rivals like RealNetworks wouldn't play on Apple devices.

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Plaintiffs say Apple's executives, with that iPod update, were trying to maintain and expand a monopoly over the portable digital media player market.

Apple disagrees, arguing that the reason for that iPod update was security.

The company says its products aren't as secure for consumers if a third party can enter the iTunes system. That introduces the possibility, so Apple contends, of bugs, malware and hackers.

Plaintiffs attorneys estimate damages at $350 million. However, if antitrust violations are proven, Apple could be on the hook for $1 billion in damages. While that is no doubt a lot of money, that figure represents less than 1 percent of its $155 billion cash pile.

So, why doesn't Apple settle with plaintiffs attorneys given the relatively small amount of potential damages?

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A lawyer not involved in the case says Apple might simply believe it boasts a very strong case, and will win over the jury. Also, the company could believe that settling with plaintiffs, regardless of the dollar amount, could encourage more lawsuits.