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Leaving money on the table; anti-violence stand


The Information has a lengthy Phil Schiller profile, following his shift from head of worldwide marketing to Apple Fellow back in 2020.

Based on interviews with unnamed colleagues, it’s something of a puff piece, but does contain some interesting snippets…

Background

Phil Schiller had long headed up Apple’s marketing, and he also took on the role of PR chief three years ago, following the departure of Steve Dowling. Schiller has additionally had responsibility for the App Store for the past six years.

When it was announced that Schiller was handing over his marketing and PR role to Greg Joswiak, and becoming an Apple Fellow, it was widely assumed that this meant he would be taking a much more back-seat role at the company. This was reinforced by his statement that he would now be able to pursue some personal projects.

However, Apple said at the time that Schiller would continue to lead the App Store, as well as Apple events, and today’s profile suggests that this has proven to be the case in practice as well as on paper.

Phil Schiller profile

The Information:

Schiller is still very much in the thick of the action at Apple, where he continues to put in long hours, according to people familiar with this role. The duties he held on to—overseeing the App Store, Apple’s distribution hub for software designed for devices like the iPhone—has positioned him at the center of the Apple business that is attracting the most scrutiny from antitrust regulators in the US and abroad.

Developers have been portraying Apple as greedy for the hefty cut the company takes from App Store sales and in-app purchases, but the piece claims that Schiller has a record of being willing to leave money on the table when he has felt it’s the right thing that to.

People who have worked closely with Schiller say he has often left money on the table in the past, making decisions on advertising, privacy and content based on what he believes is best for users.

This was said to be the case with App Tracking Transparency.

Schiller [was informed] that the move could cost the App Store billions of dollars in revenue as advertisers pulled back on spending on iOS apps, which in turn drove traffic to other iOS apps, and shifted to other platforms like Google’s Android, where they could measure the impact of their ads more accurately.

Schiller told the team he didn’t care, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. He said the privacy feature was the right thing to do for users and advertisers would ultimately adapt to the changes.

Of course, some have suggested that this move will actually benefit Apple financially, and even that it was a plot by the company to increase the relative attractiveness of its own ad sales.

The Phil Schiller profile says the exec took a strong line on violent games.

Schiller has taken a cautious approach to promoting violent videogames in the App Store, despite the fact that games now account for roughly 60% of its sales. One of the first changes Schiller made in his new role was to stop featuring these types of games on the App Store’s main tabs, which he worried could put off some users, said four people who worked on the App Store.

The piece gives the example of the popular game Bully: Anniversary Edition. Previous App Store head Eddy Cue promised heavy promotion of the game, but Schiller disliked its violent nature, and overruled the decision – upsetting Rockstar, whose developers had worked long hours to meet Apple’s deadline.

That stance extended to the way Fortnite was promoted.

For example, the App Store’s main tabs initially couldn’t feature first-person shooter games such as Epic’s Fortnite because of their violent nature. The business management team eventually persuaded Schiller to ease up on the prohibition after agreeing that they wouldn’t include artwork in App Store promotions that featured Fortnite characters pointing guns at each other or at the screen.

This was said to be typical of Schiller, taking a very hands-on approach to the role.

While Cue delegated a lot of responsibilities, Schiller would review every piece of artwork and copy that went on the App Store. He encouraged debates among colleagues to make sure all sides were heard, those people said. And he’s known to respond almost immediately to emails, text messages and phone calls, giving the impression that he works around the clock, the people said.

While other first-person shooter games were subsequently accepted, Apple says that it reviews these with particular care. Schiller also introduced a new policy regarding sensitive times.

Following mass shootings in the US, Schiller’s team often abruptly stops the promotion of first-person shooters or delays their promotion for a week or more, according to four people who worked on the App Store. That policy didn’t exist under Cue.

Another Cue vs. Schiller policy disagreement was on the editorialization of the App Store, creating more of a magazine feel, and less of a simple directory of apps. Cue had dismissed this as a waste of money, but Schiller reversed that decision within a few days of taking on the role.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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