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Phil Schiller

Phil Schiller

Last updated: 1 week ago

Phil Schiller is Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, and it's a tie between him and Craig Federighi for who is the most enthusiastic. However, Schiller is easily the most outspoken Apple executive, and at times that has got him into trouble.

● Got his degree in biology
● First joined Apple in 1987 but left in 1993
● Was briefly known as "Techno Rambo"
● Got praise for his "can't innovate any more, my ass" comment
● Got criticized for his "courage" line
● Once jumped from the roof of a stage during a product demo


Phillip W Schiller is surely the only person to stand on stage at an Apple presentation and use the word "ass." It was in 2013, when he was announcing that year's ill-fated Mac Pro, and referring to criticism that Apple had lost its engineering skill.

Phil Schiller; SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller; SVP of Worldwide Marketing

It is true that the 2013 model turned out to have problems –– which took until 2019's Mac Pro to fix –– but at the time, it did seem startlingly revolutionary. Schiller even got great applause for his comment. He got rather less welcome attention three years later when he said it had taken "courage" for Apple to ditch the headphone jack.

He wasn't wrong, though. This was indeed yet another example of Apple abandoning a hardware feature that millions rely on –– and which gets the company a storm of criticism. In this case, it even earned the company mockery from Samsung. And yet it was again another example of Apple being ahead of the game.

When all, or at least most, of the furor died down, every other manufacturer copied it. Try buying any smartphone today with a headphone jack –– even a Samsung one.

So Schiller was right enough that this was something only Apple would do, but usually, the company just takes its knocks and presses on. By calling itself out as courageous, it was just too much.

He's not likely to say it again.

Schiller is, though, more than likely to continue being a particularly familiar face at Apple keynotes as he introduces new features. 

Phil Schiller's History

Phil Schiller has been at Apple since 1997, but it wasn't his first time at the company. And while he has always worked in technology marketing for Apple, he has a wide-ranging background.

Schiller graduated from Boston College in 1982 with a degree in biology. If that seems far removed from computing, Schiller would probably argue that it isn't at all.

Together with his wife Kim Gassett-Schiller, whose degree is in business administration, he founded the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society in 2017. Based at Boston College, Schiller says that the $25 million donation is intended specifically to bring "together students and faculty from so many different disciplines."

 

Phil Schiller went very quickly from biology into technology, though. Shortly after leaving college, he became a programmer and systems analyst for the Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1985, he became an IT Manager for Nolan Norton & Co, then a management consulting firm in Lexington, Massachusetts.

He didn't stay there long, however, in 1987, he joined Apple for the first time. It was Apple in the years without Steve Jobs. And by 1988, InfoWorld was saying, apparently in all seriousness, that Schiller's "job title is 'Techno Rambo' in Apple's new Business Multimedia Group."

That was in a report about that year's Comdex in Las Vegas where, the publication reported, Schiller would be demonstrating an interactive presentation tool, built with Apple's Hypercard –– and Macromedia's Videoworks. 

After six years with Apple, and then two at Firepower Systems, Schiller moved to Macromedia in 1995 as vice president of product marketing.

Perhaps he might even still be there, but in 1997, Steve Jobs was back at Apple and Phil Schiller rejoined the company.

Since then, he's become a member of Apple's executive team, and a very serious, somber figure who would never jump off the top of a stage to (somehow) demonstrate Wi-Fi.

 

That may not have gone down in the "demo hall of fame," as Steve Jobs reportedly promised Schiller. However, one other idea certainly should have done.

It's because of Phil Schiller at the iPod gained a clickwheel. Rival MP3 players, before the iPod, all required you to repeatedly tap a Next or Down button to go through music. Schiller says he wanted a one-handed way to scroll quickly as you're jogging, and he came up with the wheel.

That may now be forgotten, as the once all-conquering iPod has vanished from the world, but it's a clue to Phil Schiller's role in Apple.

Despite always being on the marketing side, his role has seemingly never been about taking whatever product he's given and making a nice poster of it. 

Just as much as with design, marketing is deep-rooted within Apple and Phil Schiller have been at the heart of that for over two decades.

 

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