Apple Should Fire Dan Riccio

By Chand Bellur

July 8, 2020 at 6:56 p.m. PT

  • Dan Riccio is Apple’s head of hardware engineering, replacing Bob Mansfield, who semi-retired in 2012.
  • Under Riccio’s leadership, Apple released some of the worst Macintosh computers ever, many of which are still in use today by disgruntled customers.
  • Apple fired Scott Forestall for delivering an imperfect mapping app; however, Riccio’s negligence has proven far worse for loyal Apple customers.

The Buck Stops at Dan Riccio

Apple isn’t a monolith. Many engineers, marketers, employees, and contractors deliver iconic technology to over a billion end users. With so many different parts in play, it’s easy for things to go awry; however, the engineering process helps ensure the trains run on time.

Corporate America operates on the principle that leaders are accountable for the end result. Having worked in corporate America for a decade and a half, I’ve seen leaders try to blame others for their mistakes. Much like the sociopath who resides in the White House, these mentally ill monsters make life miserable for others, as they gain more power and wealth.

Dan Riccio, Apple’s SVP of hardware engineering, is ultimately responsible for the Mac and other products. Let’s face it, the Mac is a disaster. The iconic Apple computers, neglected for years under Riccio’s lack of leadership, shipped with defective keyboards, buggy displays, and fragile Fusion drives. All the while, Apple stonewalled users with excuses and layers of customer support.

Butterfly Keyboard Disaster

Apple’s notorious butterfly keyboard mechanism replaced a reliable scissor mechanism to make the MacBook lineup as thin as possible. Although I don’t have access to Apple’s market research, it’s highly unlikely that consumers prefer fragile, easily broken keyboards to Macs that are a few millimeters thicker.

Instead of immediately reverting to the scissor mechanism, Apple decided to tilt at windmills. The delusional desire to make thinner devices resulted in three different iterations of the butterfly keyboard mechanism, all under Riccio’s (lack of) leadership.

MacBook users throughout the world lambasted Apple for the wretched butterfly keyboard mechanism. High profile Mac users, like Casey Neistat, Rene Ritchie, and others all had keyboard failures with their MacBook Pros. After sending machines in for service and being without a MacBook Pro for weeks, many faced the same problem again.

It was clear to people outside of Apple that this keyboard mechanism was deeply flawed. Unfortunately, Apple’s group-think mentality and obsequious employees just couldn’t see it. The butterfly keyboard mechanism made its way into millions of MacBooks. Every time one of these machines breaks, Apple risks losing yet another customer for life.

Dan Riccio is ultimately responsible for the butterfly keyboard. Although publications place the blame on Jony Ive, Riccio is accountable for the Mac. He gets the big bucks, but also has enormous responsibilities. The buck stops with Riccio. He should step down for allowing flawed, Quixotic engineering in Apple products for so long.

If this failure wasn’t bad enough, MacBooks and iMacs have even more problems. These once-reliable machines still sell for a premium price; however, some models are no better than the cheapest Windows PCs.

iMac Fusion Drive Prone to Failure

I recently purchased an iMac for my 75-year-old mom, because her Windows 10 PC would no longer print. A Windows 10 update took down the printer, and no amount of fiddling can make it work again. Instead of spending hours with PC maintenance, I decided to get her an iMac, boasting that it just works.

A few months later, I turned on the machine only to see a zero on the screen. After a long chat with Apple’s excellent customer support, I learned that the Fusion drive failed, and I would need to have the machine serviced. With all of the Apple Stores closed down, Apple refused to service my mom’s iMac through parcel delivery. They will only do this with the vastly expensive Mac Pro.

It’s been three months since this machine broke down, and it’s sitting here in the office of my mom’s home, in the box. The box, now covered with a thick layer of dust, reminds me every day of how Dan Riccio’s poor leadership impacts Mac users. As I type this article on her old Windows 10 machine, I realize how much more reliable this cheap Lenovo all-in-one PC is. It’s half the price of the iMac, and, unlike the Apple product, it just works. Riccio needs to go!

The Fusion drive is poorly engineered and is more about making greater profits for Apple than providing a decent computing experience. A Fusion drive is a combination SSD and hard drive. The problem is that it stripes data across both drives. This means if one drive fails, the whole file system corrupts. The components are chintzy, and many users experience problems with these drives.

It’s another ticking time-bomb in your iMac that ensures your beloved machine won’t make it past three years, just like a cheap PC. In fact, in all of my years of PC ownership, I’ve never experienced a machine as poorly built as this 27″ iMac. If it wasn’t for the fact that macOS is vastly superior to Windows 10, I’d swear off the Mac for life. Craig Federighi deserves credit and respect for keeping macOS stable and useful. He also has a great head of hair.

Apple went with fusion drives instead of SSDs solely to eke out even more profits. SSDs are astonishingly inexpensive, but old hard drives are ridiculously cheap. By melding these technologies, Apple hoped to produce a speedy user experience that’s also profitable for Cupertino. Unfortunately, they created a storage system prone to failure. Mine failed only six months after purchase. Many iMac owners have faced problems with this troublesome storage system.

Flexgate Defect is Another Reason to Terminate Riccio

If these two hardware engineering disasters aren’t reason enough to can Riccio, there’s one more. To make the MacBook ultra-thin, Apple engineering revisited the cabling between the screen and display controller board. Replacing the connection with a thin ribbon cable enabled Apple to create a slimmer MacBook. Unfortunately, wear and tear on the ribbon cable produced display artifacts and, in some cases, completely dead screens.

If this isn’t bad enough, they permanently fixed the ribbon cable to the display assembly. Instead of replacing a cable, the whole display assembly requires replacement. If your MacBook’s warranty expired, you’re stuck paying for Apple’s defective engineering.

Bring Back Mansfield

Bob Mansfield is perhaps Apple’s best hardware engineer ever. Under his tenure, Apple made sensible hardware decisions. MacBooks and the iMac were a little thicker; however, under Mansfield’s leadership, they “just worked”.

Mansfield is still associated with Apple. Rumors suggest that he is heading up Apple’s car project. While this endeavor is critical to Apple’s future success, the Mac is still an essential part of the company’s product lineup.

No leader is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. People deserve multiple chances to correct themselves and get things right. That said, Riccio’s tenure at Apple produced the worst Apple computers since the LISA. Give the man a golden parachute and either hire Mansfield back for the position or hire someone else.

Looking at Apple’s lack of diversity in leadership, perhaps the company should hire one of the many talented Asian engineers in the SF Bay Area. As of the 2010 census, almost 25% of Bay Area residents are Asian. South Asian CEOs head both Microsoft and Google, yet Apple’s leadership is astonishingly white. 

Apple is like no other company I’ve seen in the Bay Area, let alone California. Even their keynotes are remarkably white, apart from photos of African Americans, who don’t work at Apple, shot on the iPhone. It’s becoming hard for me to support a company that sells bogus products and has a glass ceiling for minorities. I hear Tim Cook’s messages on diversity, but I just don’t see any action. Like most corporate leaders, his motivating words fall flat when the rubber meets the road.

While investors applaud Apple’s extraordinary stock value during a time of crisis, this is a result of stock buybacks. Funds repatriated as a result of the corporate tax rate go to repurchasing shares of Apple stock, not to creating jobs in the U.S. When the buybacks end, Apple’s stock will likely plummet, and even Tim Cook could face the chopping block.

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