Apple’s senior vice president of product marketing Phil Schiller has been profiled in an article that examines the difference between the “clown” we see on stage during Apple keynotes; the man nicknamed Mini-Me by colleagues, because he channelled Jobs’ perspective so consistently; and the father of two who loves hockey and high-priced sports cars.
The profile asks whether Schiller – who’s job entails everything from defining target markets, determining technical specs, setting price, helping software chief Scott Forstall and hardware designer Jonathan Ive define new products, and a global advertising budget that hit US$933 million last year – can “keep Apple cool?”
Bloomberg Business Week’s profile of Schiller is based on interviews with more former Apple managers, business partners, and industry analysts. Apple declined to make Schiller available for the story.
For most Apple fans Schiller is known as the clown who provides the comic relief during Apple keynotes. He jumped off a 15-foot platform to show off Apple’s iBook in 1999, notes the Business Week article. And: “In 2007, he demoed new videoconferencing features by superimposing his mouth on a photo of Steve Ballmer. ‘I love my Mac!’ Schiller had the Microsoft chief declare.”
“Offstage, Schiller wasn’t a clown but one of Jobs’s most trusted, influential lieutenants,” notes the report. Schiller was the one who came up with the spin-wheel interface on the original iPod; he was one of only two other people in the room when Jobs penned the 2004 email that told employees that he had cancer; Schiller helped Jobs craft Apple’s response to the iPhone 4 antenna issue; and during Jobs’s final medical leave, Schiller frequently visited Jobs’ Palo Alto home, to refine ads and brainstorm new campaigns.
Schiller is also “the steward of Apple’s relationship with app developers,” and: “The cop keeping Apple’s ecosystem free of porn and other objectionable material”.
The report quotes Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster: “Because Phil’s title is marketing, people believe he’s focused on what’s on the billboards. He’s much more important than people give him credit for.”
It seems likely that Schiller’s duties will become even more important. “According to a person who met with Schiller recently to discuss Apple’s future, the marketing executive knows he’ll get more than his fair share of blame if the new products aren’t hits,” states the report.
“Schiller is likely to emcee much of the WWDC keynote,” claims Business Week.
Much of what is said about Schiller is positive, although the report notes: “Four former Apple managers say many consider him overly controlling and worry that he lacks the bold creative instincts needed to maintain Apple’s edge.”
Schiller’s colleagues seem confident in his abilities however, the report describes how Schiller was thought to “channel Jobs’s perspective so consistently that he was known within Apple as Mini-Me.” He even “kept a cutout of the Austin Powers character in his office.”