Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Apple's amazing, incredible Phil Schiller

September 12, 2009: 12:31 PM ET
Phil Schiller. Photo: Apple Inc.

Phil Schiller. Photo: Apple Inc.

The day after Apple's (AAPL) "It's only rock and roll" event, Erik Sherman asked on CBS's BNET why the media missed the strategic importance of the gaming announcements that were made that day.

He has a point. Apple spent nearly a third of the hour-plus long presentation talking about the iPod touch -- the "funnest iPod ever" -- and how it stacks up against handheld game machines made by the likes of Sony (SNE) and Nintendo.

Yet the attention of the press seemed to be on everything else: the return of Steve Jobs, the video camera on the iPod nano, the camera missing from the iPod touch.

I went back and reviewed the podcast video of the event and I think I've found the reason: Phil Schiller.

Schiller, for those who don't recognize anyone on Apple's executive team beyond its famous CEO, is the company's senior vice president for worldwide marketing and Steve Jobs' regular stand-in at events like this. He gave the Macworld keynote in January, when Jobs was too sick to attend, and emceed last June's World Wide Developers Conference. He ran the show for nearly 20 minutes Wednesday -- longer than anyone else, including Jobs.

Listening to Schiller the second time, I realize that he actually made a strong case that Apple, with the iPod touch, is finally getting serious about competing in the multi-billion dollar videogame market. He had the numbers -- and the demos -- to prove it.

But by that point, I had mostly tuned Schiller out -- and I was not alone. As Sherman notes, it was roughly 40 minutes into the event -- while Schiller was on stage -- that Chris Nuttall from the Financial Times blogged, "I'm sorry, but can we get to some news."

I can't speak for the rest of the media, but after reviewing Wednesday's video I think I can finally put my finger on what it is about Schiller's presentation style that loses me: his tireless, repetitive use of the same handful of adjectives.

In Schiller's world, everything Apple does is great, cool, remarkable, unbelievable and, more than anything else, amazing and incredible.

In the space of his 20 minutes -- much of which was ceded to game developers -- Schiller repeated the words "amazing" and "incredible" an incredible 15 times each. I would go back and count the times he said "really great," but I don't think I can take it one more time.

Enthusiasm for one's products is a must for a marketing man. But so too is being able to communicate that enthusiasm in a way that doesn't lose the audience.

If Steve Jobs really wants to drive home the message that Apple has, in the iPod touch, its first world-class game machine, maybe he should do it himself.

UPDATE: Some enterprising soul has posted a 2-minute YouTube video of the special event cut down to just the adjectives. See here. I wish I'd had it when I made my word count.

Thanks reader to Urs in Zurich for the pointer.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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