A closer look at Apple executive Phil Schiller

Mon, Jun 11, 2012


One of the reasons Apple followers and a few tech analysts remained confident that Apple had what it took to succeed in the wake of Steve Jobs’ passing was that Jobs assembled an extremely reputable and capable team of executives well prepared to push Apple to even further heights.

We’ve been able to learn quite a bit about Tim Cook over the past few months, and stories about Jony Ive and his design prowess are not terribly hard to find. But one Apple executive we don’t know too much about is Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior VP of Marketing.

BusinessWeek recently ran a profile on Schiller, and while there are no groundbreaking revelations therein, it provides a more complete picture of one of Jobs’ most trusted lieutenants.

Though Schiller’s title might make him seem like a marketing guy exclusively, the article is quick to point out that Schiller has played an integral role in coming up with and positioning Apple’s products in the marketplace. Indeed, Schiller was the one who came up with the idea for  the iPod’s revolutionary scrollwheel. And yes, on top of that, there is the advertising that Schiller oversees – just a $1 billion marketing budget is all, nothing too fancy.

Highlighting Schiller’s role within Jobs’ inner circle, the article points out that when Jobs first alerted Apple employees in 2004 about his fight with cancer, Schiller “was one of only two other people in the room.”

When Jobs cut short a vacation in Hawaii to deal with complaints about the iPhone 4 antenna in 2010, Schiller spent a tense weekend by his side crafting the company’s response, says Regis McKenna, a longtime Silicon Valley marketing consultant who was also there. During Jobs’s final medical leave, Schiller often attended weekly sessions at his Palo Alto home, where the CEO met with Apple’s advertising firm to refine ads and brainstorm new campaigns.

And fleshing out Schiller’s professional duties with some new information about Schiller’s personal life, we find out that Schiller has a thing for expensive sports cars and is an avid sports fan.

Yet in business, Schiller channeled Jobs’s perspective so consistently that he was known within Apple as Mini-Me. He found the nickname flattering and kept a cutout of the Austin Powers character in his office. Like Jobs, he is ruthlessly disciplined when it comes to choosing new products or features, which has yielded another nickname: Dr. No, for his penchant to shoot down ideas, according to one former manager.

Some other points of interest include Schiller’s vigilant efforts to control product leaks, and his hand in Apple’s arguably onerous app developer guidelines that some say give Apple too much nebulous power to exclude apps for no reason at all.

Naturally, the article delves into whether or not Schiller, as one of the arbiter’s of cool at Apple, can keep the Apple train going.

To a certain extent, it’s not an entirely fair question. Apple doesn’t succeed by making “cool” products per se. Rather, Apple releases intuitive and technologically advanced products that, as Steve Jobs once said, leapfrog the competition. The technology is what makes Apple products “cool”, and with iOS 6 set for its unveiling in just a day or two, it should be abundantly clear, rather shortly, that Apple is on the right track.


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