Apple's Latest High-Profile Automotive Hire Is A Smart Move

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【Summary】Apple’s larger automotive ambitions are still a matter of speculation. Will the Silicon Valley icon produce and sell iVehicles? Probably not. Will it build self-driving electric city pods to compete with rival Google? More likely.

Mia    Sep 14, 2016 4:00 PM PT
Apple's Latest High-Profile Automotive Hire Is A Smart Move
Doug Newcomb

Apple's larger automotive ambitions are still a matter of speculation. Will the Silicon Valley icon produce and sell iVehicles? Probably not. Will it build self-driving electric city pods to compete with rival Google? More likely.

Then there's a camp that thinks Apple simply wants to develop and control the software in the autonomous driving/connected car future. And the latest in a series of high-profile hires (and departures) indicate that this could be the case.

Last week it was learned that Apple has hired Dan Dodge, former CEO and the co-founder of QNX, the division of BlackBerry that supplies a large percentage of automotive software to car companies – and a bright spot in the beleaguered company's business. Dodge started QNX in 1980 as a student at the University of Waterloo in Canada and sold the company to Harman International in 2004. BlackBerry acquired QNX from Harman in 2010 and Dodge left the company in December 2015.

Dodge was reportedly brought onboard by another recent new name working on Apple's Project Titan but a veteran of the tech giant, Bob Mansfield. Formerly Apple's hardware engineering chief, Mansfield departed the company's leadership team in 2013 to work on "special projects," reporting to CEO Tim Cook. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mansfield is "running the company's secret autonomous, electric-vehicle initiative."

QNX develops infotainment, connectivity and, more recently, driver assistance software for most major automakers, and scored a coup two years ago by taking business away from Microsoft to provide the back-end software for Ford's Sync system. Dodge brings to Apple not only valuable automotive software experience but, like many of Apple's recent hires, deep industry experience and long-term relationships.

This follows the pattern of Apple poaching automotive talent from car companies over the past year or so. The company reportedly has hundreds of engineers working on Project Titan, and the most recent hired a pair Ford engineers with experience working on the best-selling aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup.

Todd Gray joined Apple in May and was responsible for the manufacturing systems used to produce the F-150′s aluminum body. Aindrea Campbell, who managed the body construction engineering team for the F-150 and headed researched on lightweight materials at Ford, was hired by Apple last September.

But Project Titan has been hindered by the departure of automotive talent as well as "technical delays, and confusion regarding the direction of the project," people with knowledge of Apple's Project Titan told Bloomberg. With recent news of falling iPhone salesand tepid reception to the Apple Watch, the Cupertino, California tech company can't afford to sit on the sidelines as its Silicon Valley neighbors Google and Tesla and automakers make huge investments in a shift in transportation due to technology.

While the ground continues to shift underneath automakers, ride-sharing services and others in therapidly evolving mobility space, most agree that software will be the key. That's why Google introduced an automotive version of it Android OS in May, and why Apple is wise to snag an automotive software veteran of Dodge's stature.

resource from: Forbes

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