Apple's got a new hardware boss... and a new reality!

John Ternus Mac Lineup 2020 Apple
John Ternus Mac Lineup 2020 Apple (Image credit: Apple)

Dan Riccio, Apple's longtime head of hardware, is out — but not really. He's going on to run a new and, so far, secret project. Meanwhile, John Ternus, the rising star of the engineering division, is all in — at the executive team level.

It's yet another huge shakeup at the very top of Apple's leadership chain, something that once seemed eternal but really has been changing and growing almost every year for over a decade now.

But what about this? What does this specific change really mean for the future of Apple hardware like the iPhone, iPad, and upcoming M-series Macs? Well…

Big bosses, big moves

It's an interesting time for Apple, to say the least. Last August, they announced Phil Schiller was leaving his post as the long time head of marketing to become an Apple Fellow — Wikipedia it! — to and focus on the App Store and Events. And, well, we saw how that played out through September, October, and November. Previously the constant presence in front of the cameras, he became a driving force behind them.

Taking his place as Senior Vice President and iPhone Pro presenter was Greg Jozwiak, Joz, previously VP of product marketing. An engineer, and someone just as comfortable explaining radio mechanics as he is go-to-market plans. And I'm pretty sure we're only just beginning to see how he drives product at Apple.

That was just one of the most recent changes — transformations even — at the executive level.

In June of 2019, chief design officer Jony Ive, the man whose hands and mind crafted everything from the iMac to the Apple Watch, Apple Retail to Apple Park, left to create his own indie design company, LoveFrom. And his Vice Presidents, Evans Hankey on Industrial Design and Alan Dye on Human Interface Design, moved under Jeff Williams' purview. Who is… not a designer but is a decider and so far seems to be helping his team execute on an ever-increasing lineup of products.

Jeff Williams, who took over operations when Tim Cook became CEO in 2011, and who himself became COO, chief operating officer, in 2015, and has gone on to not only lead Apple's health efforts, including the Watch, but design as well. With Sabih Khan stepping up to… back him up… as Senior Vice President of operations in June of 2019. Which is great because every Apple SVP, from Eddy Cue on services to Luca Maestri on finance, has… just… more on their plate than the laws of physics should allow.

This all was just a few months after former head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, left to spend more time with her family… and sure, money… and head of people, Deidra O'Brien, added Retail to her organization as the new Senior Vice President of both. And with a background in ops, she was ideally suited to help Apple with the growing pains that come from incredible customer scale, and also now, with the challenges everyone is facing during the pandemic. Often, incredibly, staying better informed and taking swifter, more proactive measures than almost every local government.

Angela Ahrendts before her was key to integrating online and retail and putting customers first in the Apple Store experience, even if it meant fewer attention-getting lineups come launch day. She joined Apple in October of 2013, after the brief, bananas tenure of John Browett. One of Tim Cook's earliest hires… and fires. Who left in October of 2012 at the same time as Scott Forestall, who'd been running iOS, and gave us everything from Carbon to the App Store.

All of that, iOS and OS X both, were unified under Craig Federighi as senior Vice President of just all the software engineering, which now includes iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. He'd been at NeXT but left shortly after Apple bought them — I said what I said — only to return because he knew where all the code was buried. Like.. 3 levels deep.

At the same time, Bob Mansfield got a new group, hardware technologies, which eventually went to Johny Srouji, who joined the executive team as Senior Vice President of that org in December of 2015, and has gone on to revolutionize silicon at Apple completely, and basically change the face of the industry with M1.

In October of 2017, Katherine Adams replaced the retiring Bruce Sewell as senior vice president of Legal and Global Security. And just a few months before that, Bob Mansfield snuck back into Apple to take over Project Titan, the secretive automation and automotive group, from Dan Riccio, whose plate was more than full engineering Apple's existing hardware products, especially the all-important iPhone.

Just last month, Mansfield re-retired, this time handing Titan off to John Gianandrea, who left Google to lead what he seems to have considered more ethical Machine Learning at Apple in April of 2018, and joined the executive team as Senior Vice President of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Strategy, a new org that I think will be as important to the next decade of Apple as Johny Srouji's silicon team has been to the last decade, and will continue to be going forward.

New Realities

Apple Dan Riccio

Apple Dan Riccio (Image credit: Apple)

Now Dan Riccio is leaving his spot on top of Hardware Engineering, and John Ternus is taking over. John Ternus, who's been leading Apple's terrific new pro workflows team, who presented the redesigned iPad Pro back in October of 2018, the new modular Mac Pro in June of 2019, and the industry-shaking M1 launch at the end of 2020.

It's not like when Craig Federighi took over software and features that had been held back as "too nerdy and too complicated" for the iPhone, like AirDrop, suddenly got the big green light. But I do think this John Ternus is a big part of Apple re-embracing their Mac-specific nerdy-ness. The exact thing that led to the pro workflows team, the retconning of the Mac Pro, and if reports are accurate, MacBooks Pro, that are about to get just that much more Pro again.

If John Ternus can continue to propel that forward, that retro-future chic Apple's been positively strutting lately, than to say all the Mac, and iPad, and iPhone and other assorted atoms at Apple are in safest of hands is… a statement that's so far under, it's like Mariana Trench level deep.

Dan Riccio… well, Apple won't say what he's moving on to. A lot of early hot tweets had the word CAR in them. But given Riccio moved on from Titan years ago and John Gianandrea has just taken over there, that makes the kind of sense that just really doesn't.

I think Dan Riccio still runs Apple's virtual and augmented reality project, and given the recent reports of what Apple's planning to do there, what with VR headsets and AR glasses both lined up for the next few years, it's more than possible Apple decided they needed someone dedicated to them completely, at least until the come to market.

The person who made sure iPhone hardware was ready to ship each year, every year, year over year, is exactly the person you want doing just that.

Even if it turns out to be… who knows. An Apple hot tub.

Yo, Siri, bubbles.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.