Apple's top hardware engineer has moved to a mysterious new project

Dan Riccio is being transitioned to a new role at Apple, the company has announced, one that doesn't come with many public details. Riccio joined Apple in 1998 to lead the company's Product Design team, later becoming iPad Hardware Engineering VP in 2010 and its Hardware Engineering leader in 2012. Apple teases that Riccio will 'play an instrumental role in shaping the future of Apple's products in his new position as a vice president of engineering.'

Apple announced the change on January 25, but is being pretty vague about what Riccio will be working on, stating only that "Dan Riccio will transition to a new role focusing on a new project and reporting to CEO Tim Cook." To fill his previous role, John Ternus is now the Hardware Engineering lead at Apple.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

Every innovation Dan has helped Apple bring to life has made us a better and more innovative company, and we're thrilled that he'll continue to be part of the team. John's deep expertise and wide breadth of experience make him a bold and visionary leader of our Hardware Engineering teams. I want to congratulate them both on these exciting new steps, and I'm looking forward to many more innovations they'll help bring to the world.

Is this an indication that Riccio is dialing back his work at Apple with an eye toward retirement or is the company cooking up some big new product? It's hard to say. There have been many rumors lately about Apple's augmented reality and car projects, as well as claims that it is looking into tech for a possible folding iPhone — one that may never actually come to market.

Apple notes that Riccio played a role in 'almost all' of its products, at least when it came to development, design, and engineering. In his own statement, the newly promoted Riccio said:

Working at Apple has been the opportunity of a lifetime, spent making the world's best products with the most talented people you could imagine. After 23 years of leading our Product Design or Hardware Engineering teams — culminating with our biggest and most ambitious product year ever — it's the right time for a change. Next up, 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.

What that something is remains a mystery.