In fact, its main effect was to demote certain types of sites so as to clear the way for brands to move higher.
That's a simplistic view, IMO. It's nothing to do with brands (in the offline sense of the word, anyway) and many major websites suffered at the hands of Panda, just as many lesser known websites ranked well. I think connecting Panda with brands is a mistake.
As for Schmidt, he seems to like the idea of getting press for controversial comments, so I've never held too much stock in his views - at least as they might directly translate to algorithmic changes. Google's general direction, sure, but directly equating those comments with particular updates is a stretch too far.