David Zax

A View from David Zax

Apple's Hardware Change-Up

Bob Mansfield out, Dan Riccio in.

  • July 3, 2012

Apple’s hardware chief, Bob Mansfield, has decided it’s time to retire. Mansfield will be replaced by Dan Riccio, Apple’s vice president of the hardware engineering team for the iPad.

The ascent of Mansfield at the company appears to be another instance of Steve Jobs spotting talent within his ranks and promoting it. After getting a BSEE at the University of Texas in 1982, Mansfield wound up in a leadership position at a company called Raycer Graphics, which got acquired by Apple in 1999. From there, the sky was the limit. Mansfield rose the ranks, eventually overseeing the team that developed the MacBook Air and iMac line, among other products. Back in 2008, CNNMoney called him “part of the troika that took over Mac engineering after the messy dismissal of Tim Bucher in 2004.”

“Bob has been an instrumental part of our executive team, leading the hardware engineering organization and overseeing the team that has delivered dozens of breakthrough products over the years,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “We are very sad to have him leave and hope he enjoys every day of his retirement. Dan has been one of Bob’s key lieutenants for a very long time and is very well respected within Apple and by the industry. Our hardware engineering team is the best engineering team on earth and will not miss a beat during the transition.”

Mansfield has mostly shied away from the limelight; his YouTube presence is minimal, though both he and Riccio make appearances in this video announcing an update in the MacBook line. (It’s mostly dominated by the ultra-suave Sir Jonathan Ive, though).

It may be tempting for some to read more into Mansfield’s departure than a well-earned desire to kick back. Is all well in Tim Cook’s court? Is the post-Jobsian succession plan going smoothly? Are there hidden tensions? One outlet goes so far as to say the departure “raised some eyebrows” and called into question “the structure of Apple’s top-tier design team.”

But it seems unlikely that Mansfield is retiring for anything other than the usual reasons one retires (he did sell almost all his stock a year ago, after all), and that his departure is anything but amicable. For one thing, as CNNMoney pointed years back, Mansfield already reported directly to Cook even while Jobs was alive, hence the shift to the Cook administration should have been particularly easy for him.

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