Apple’s Dan Riccio Shifts From Hardware Chief to AR, VR Headsets

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Apple Inc. executive Dan Riccio is focusing on the company’s upcoming virtual and augmented reality devices after he shed his role as the head of hardware engineering, according to people with knowledge of the move.

Last month, the Cupertino, California-based technology giant said Riccio was stepping down and being replaced by top lieutenant John Ternus. At the time, Apple said Riccio was shifting to a “new project” without specifying.

That new project is overseeing the team developing future Apple AR and VR headsets, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Riccio, who joined Apple in 1998, was responsible for this team as part of his previous job, but now he’ll be doing so on a full-time basis. “I’m looking forward to doing what I love most — focusing all my time and energy at Apple on creating something new and wonderful that I couldn’t be more excited about,” Riccio said when Apple announced his move on Jan. 25.

Apple’s Dan Riccio Shifts From Hardware Chief to AR, VR Headsets

Riccio’s move is similar to the approach taken last year by Phil Schiller, the company’s former marketing chief. Both executives left senior roles but held on to areas that needed extra oversight. In Schiller’s case, it was the App Store and public relations, and for Riccio, it’s the AR and VR headsets. This strategy helps keep key longtime executives at the company.

Apple’s work on its first headset, a high-end VR-focused device with some AR capabilities, has faced development challenges, and people within Apple believe Riccio’s extra focus could help. While he has ultimate oversight of the project, it is led day-to-day by Mike Rockwell, an Apple vice president who has well over a thousand engineers working on the two devices.

Apple has also told staff it is moving the group working on in-house displays and camera technology to Johny Srouji, the executive in charge of processors and cellular modems. The move suggests the company is getting closer to shipping its first devices with fully custom displays, replacing those from outside suppliers. Apple has a facility near its Silicon Valley headquarters developing MicroLED screens.

Inside Apple, there were signs for months that changes at the top of the hardware engineering group were coming. Around last March, Riccio handed oversight of electrical engineering, product design and project management for the iPhone and most of Apple’s other major products to Ternus. After that shift, Riccio continued to oversee AR and VR work, the development of custom screens, testing and camera hardware.

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