The relationship of a journalist and his or her source is always a symbiotic one. Each feeds the other. But few have been as sustained — and sustaining — as the relationship between Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing and the dean of Apple bloggers.
It started in secret, on background, more than a decade ago. Neither had spoken publicly about it.
But Tuesday night in San Francisco, before a live audience of Apple employees and WWDC attendees, Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber and Apple’s Phil Schiller came out.
The audio was posted overnight Thursday. Start at the 12 minute mark.
Having listened to the show twice, I have a few things to say.
First, as a guy who tries to make a living writing about Apple, I envy Gruber’s access to someone in the inner circle of Apple’s executive team. No wonder Gruber often speaks with such authority about why Apple does what it does.
True, I haven’t always been a great admirer of Schiller’s onstage persona. I once counted the number of times he used the words “incredible” and “amazing” in a single keynote appearance (15). I also posted a YouTube video of the event boiled down to just the adjectives.
But Schiller in conversation with Gruber felt like a different Schiller — relaxed, candid, almost adjective-free.
Gruber let his old friend off the hook on a few sore points. He breezed right over Jimmy Iovine’s bizarre WWDC performance. And the fact that Apple TV was a no-show Monday would never have come up if someone in the audience hadn’t shouted.
Gruber also gave Schiller openings to deliver several set pieces straight from Apple’s marketing playbook. On privacy. On diversity. On innovation. On not caring about the stock price.
But to Gruber’s credit, he hit most of the current hot-button Apple issues.
He pressed Schiller on the decision to put only one port on the new MacBook. He asked whether Apple’s obsession with thinness had gone too far. He needled Schiller for selling an iPhone with barely enough storage for iOS. He asked whether WatchKit was mistake. He complained about the lower-case w in watchOS. He got Schiller to respond to “the elephant in the room”: Marco Arment’s widely re-posted complaint about the declining quality of Apple’s software releases.
“Complete respect for your perspective and belief,” Schiller said to Arment, playing the hard guy a little too persuasively. “Don’t share them in this instance. And I mean that.”
There were lots of funny-awkward moments. One of my favorite exchanges:
Gruber: What do you think Connect has got to succeed where Ping didn’t?
Schiller: A better name to start.
After more than 50 consecutive Apple keynote appearances, Schiller wasn’t onstage at the WWDC keynote Monday. It, was by pure chance, his 55th birthday. I listened for a valedictory note in Tuesday’s podcast and didn’t hear it. But that Phil Schiller chose to make his first extended public appearance the next night, with John Gruber, in the new medium — with all its cruftiness on display in those first 12 minutes — feels right.