While not nearly as shocking as Jony Ive’s departure in 2019, Apple announced a small change to its leadership team on Monday. Nobody leaves the company, but one of the biggest players on the hardware team, Senior Vice President Dan Riccio, is moving towards a secret project.
Riccio, who has been at Apple since 1998, is not known as Tim Cook or Phil Schiller, but he has been an integral part of nearly every major Apple product this century. Riccio took over the role of Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering when Bob Mansfield retired in 2012. At the time, Riccio was Vice President of iPad Hardware Engineering, a position he took up in 2010, just as the original iPad was launched.
Even though he only held the position for two years, they have been extremely formative for the iPad. The second generation was significantly thinner and lighter than the original iPad without sacrificing battery life, while the third generation introduced the Retina display and 4G LTE network. As Senior Vice President, he was instrumental in delivering a number of products, including last year’s 5G iPhone line, M1-based Macs, and AirPods Max.
You may not know who Dan Riccio is, but you certainly know the products he helped develop.
Now Riccio is transitioning to a somewhat reserved role in the company. In a press release, Apple simply said Hedgehog “will move into a new role by focusing on a new project and reporting to CEO Tim Cook,” with his previous slot occupied by John Ternus, who has been with the company since 2001 and more. recently appeared in the launch video for the Mac M1.
While it’s natural to think Riccio will be working on Apple Car or Apple Glass, it’s likely those teams are already on track and just as likely Riccio helped build them. Rather, I think Riccio’s new project is much closer to the kind of work he excels at doing: screens.
In addition to the iPad, Riccio also played an important role in the evolution of the Mac display. In one of his few appearances on a public stage, Riccio said this when the 27-inch 5K iMac debuted in 2014: “The Mac allows people to do amazing things and for many people it’s the most important creative tool they use. And what we really love doing is making it better.”
And I think that’s exactly what he’ll do in his new role at Apple. Now that the transition to the Mac is in full swing and likely to be nearly complete by the end of 2021, Apple can turn its attention to the next big thing: a touchscreen Mac. A MacBook as thin as an iPad but as powerful as a MacBook Air M1 would be an instant change for both product lines and pave the way for another 10 years of relevance. It wouldn’t just be a MacBook you can touch, but something completely new.
We may soon be able to touch our Mac’s screen just like the Microsoft Surface.
Apple has long thrown cold water on the idea of a touchscreen Mac, but the M1 processor changes that. Apple’s silicon opens the Mac to completely new development work that wasn’t possible with Intel chips. Adding a multitouch display to the Mac isn’t the ultimate goal for Apple, it’s building an entirely new device that transforms the way we use computers and changes the landscape indelibly.
This is where Hedgehog’s ability comes into play. Like Microsoft’s Surface, a touch-screen Mac would be part tablet and part laptop, two products that Riccio knows very well. More importantly, it would be all about the display, an area where Hedgehog has an amazing experience. If Apple is serious about developing a Mac with multi-touch, Cook would like Hedgehog to dedicate all his time to it.
And it looks like that’s exactly what it will do. While other SVPs who have transitioned from their senior roles have made vague statements about their next steps, Riccio is extremely focused: “The next step, I can’t wait to do what I love most, focusing all my time and my energies at Apple on creating something new and wonderful that I couldn’t be more excited about. “
It may take several years, but there are enough clues and rumors to suggest that Apple is finally looking at the next evolution of the Mac that finally combines the power of a PC with the versatility of an iPad. And with Riccio at the helm, it could be even more exciting than an Apple Car.
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