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Apple hardware chief steps down to focus on mysterious project

Dan Riccio could be shifting roles to head up Apple's rumoured AR headset or automotive projects

Apple has announced that hardware boss Dan Riccio will step down from his current role to focus on a mysterious internal project.

The tech giant didn’t specify what Riccio’s new role would entail but stated that he would be reporting directly to CEO Tim Cook.

There are rumours that Apple is on a virtual or augmented reality headset, as well as a potential automotive project. In mid-2018, Apple appointed former hardware VP Doug Field as an executive of the company's Project Titan driverless car development arm, following his brief stint at Tesla. However, the project has been so far considered quite secretive. 

However, Apple commentator John Gruber expects that Riccio will work on the former, "simply because I’m certain the headset is closer”.

“I think it’s a sign that the headset is ready to get real, and Apple wants someone as capable as Riccio to lead it with nothing else on his plate,” he wrote on Daring Fireball.

Riccio joined the company in 1998 as a leader on Apple’s Product Design team, becoming VP of iPad Hardware Engineering in 2010 and joining the executive team as the leader of Hardware Engineering two years later.

Over his two-decade-long career at Apple, Riccio has worked on the engineering, development, and design of an array of products, from the first generation 1998 iMac to last year’s 5G iPhone lineup, M1-based Macs, and AirPods Max.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that “every innovation” to which Riccio contributed has made Apple “a better and more innovative company”.

“We’re thrilled that he’ll continue to be part of the team,” he added.

Riccio is to be replaced by John Ternus, who was described by Cook as having “deep expertise and wide breadth of experience” which would “make him a bold and visionary leader of our Hardware Engineering teams”. 

Ternus, who joined Apple’s Product Design team in 2001, has been a Hardware Engineering VP since 2013. Over the years, he has overseen hardware engineering work on every generation of iPad as well as led the hardware team responsible for the production of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro smartphones. He has also been a key leader in the ongoing transition of the Mac to Apple Silicon.

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