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Apple’s Phil Schiller: Clown on Stage, Steve Job’s Most Trusted Lieutenant Off Stage

Apple’s Phil Schiller: Clown on Stage, Steve Job’s Most Trusted Lieutenant Off Stage

Steve Job’s was always the face of Apple’s product launches while he was alive, but it wasn’t a one-man show. Phil Schiller, the company’s senior vice president of product marketing, was usually around as the humorous counteract to Apple’s cool, polished chief executive officer. In 1999, it was Schiller that jumped off a 15-foot platform to introduce Apple’s new iBook. In 2007, he showed off new videoconferencing features by superimposing his mouth on a photo of Steve Ballmer. “I love my Mac!” Schiller had the Microsoft executive declare.

Phil Schiller (right), On stage with Tim Cook and Steve Jobs

Bloomberg Business Week, via MacDailyNews:

Offstage, Schiller wasn’t a clown but one of Jobs’s most trusted, influential lieutenants. He helped Apple’s late CEO work through the meat-and-potatoes of creating new products: Defining target markets, determining technical specs, setting prices. It was Schiller who came up with the spin-wheel interface on the original iPod, and he was a champion of the iPad when other executives questioned its potential. “Because Phil’s title is marketing, people believe he’s focused on what’s on the billboards,” says Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray (PJC). “He’s much more important than people give him credit for.”

Now, with Steve Job’s death in October, no other Apple executive other than perhaps CEO Tim Cook is under more pressure to fill the massive void left by Job’s passing.

Besides helping software head Scott Forstall and hardware designer Jonathan Ive define new products, Schiller is the steward of Apple’s relationship with app developers. He has assumed control of all of Apple’s marketing, with a advertising budget that hit $933 million last year. He will be Apple’s public face for now and the foreseeable future, something that should be evident at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference starting on June 11. Schiller will likely emcee much of the keynote, during which Apple is expected to unveil new Macs and their upgraded operating system.

According to a source who recently met with Schiller to discuss Apple’s future, the executive knows he’ll receive the brunt of the blame if Apple’s new products aren’t hits. Schiller has the enviable, yet unenviable job of keeping Apple “cool” in the eyes of the public. A tougher task now that Apple isn’t viewed as the underdog, but as the $535 billion monster company it has become.

Perhaps unfairly, Schiller and other Apple executives will always be measured against the man who put them in their current positions in the company, Steve Jobs. Pundits will always second guess their every move with the slant of WWJD, (“What Would Jobs Do”).

Bloomberg: “Jobs eschewed public displays of wealth; Schiller collects high-priced sports cars and has kept miniature replicas of some in his office. 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.”

As a father of two, Schiller has put himself in the position of keeping Apple’s ecosystem free of porn and other types of objectionable material. This has resulted in criticism that the approval process for app developers is overly restrictive.

The biggest problem will be if Apple’s upcoming products can’t meet expectations. Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research said, “The real question is what new multibillion-dollar market can they create with a new device that you and I can hardly even imagine, They’re at the top—and when you’re at the top, there’s only one way to go if you don’t reinvent yourself.”

The article is able to go into more detail than we have space for, and is a highly recommended read.