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Can Apple Carry on Steve Jobs' Legacy of Cool?

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If Apple (AAPL) continues its unparalleled string of successes and record earnings, next to CEO Tim Cook, Senior Vice President of Product Marketing Phil Schiller stands to enjoy the most credit. If Apple stumbles, however, expect some serious backlash to head his way.

Schiller, one of Steve Jobs’ most trusted and loyal employees, was featured in a recent Blumberg Businessweek article exploring the question that keeps Apple stockholders up at night: Without Jobs at the helm, how will Apple keep its cool? Is Will Schiller up to the incredible (perhaps impossible) task?

Not just a marketing guy, Schiller has been directly involved in the creation of some of Apple’s most revolutionary products since 1997. He’s credited with coming up with the original iPod’s spin-wheel interface, was an early champion of the iPad, and more recently, has worked alongside software chief Scott Forstall and hardware designer Jonathan Ive defining new products while serving as Apple’s steward of relationships with app developers.

Oh, and he also just took over Apple’s $1 billion global marketing campaign.

During this week’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, expect him also to play a larger role in representing the company’s public face, a position in which Schiller should be comfortable. A few years ago, Schiller demoed some of Apple’s new videoconferencing features by superimposing his mouth over a photo of Microsoft (MSFT) chief Steve Ballmer, having him declare “I Love my Mac!” In 1999, he jumped off a 15-foot platform to help promote their new iBook.

Known for being involved with wildly successful Apple campaigns such as the silhouetted iPod dancers and the “Mac vs. PC” ads, recent stumbles by Schiller and his team, however, have some worried that the coolness of the brand may be taking a hit.

Historically eschewing celebrity endorsements, commercials for voice-recognition software program Siri featuring personalities such as John Malkovich and Zooey Deschanel have been met with a ho-hum, if not downright derisive, response. The fact that many have been unhappy with Siri did not help, prompting scornful laughter at the ads’ unrealistic portrayal of the feature and a few unfavorable comparisons to Android’s (GOOG) timetested Voice Command.

And this not the time for Apple to stumble. In addition to March’s new iPad, this year Apple will be launching not only a new iPhone and Macbook, but also upgrading their operating systems -- both OS X and iOS -- and potentially introducing a television set to the brand.  

The Bloomberg article references several former Apple managers who say Schiller is overly controlling and may lack the bold creative instincts of Jobs that the company needs to maintain their edge. But Siri ads notwithstanding, Schiller has plenty of opportunity left to prove them wrong.

For now.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.