Continuing its high-level executive hiring spree, Apple has recruited Dolby Executive Vice President Mike Rockwell to become an executive in its hardware division, 9to5Mac has learned. According to a source, Rockwell has likely been hired to bolster the audio and display performance of future Apple products, which could include anything from next-generation Apple monitors to professional audio/video editing tools to speakers. Rockwell’s LinkedIn profile confirms he joined Apple in February but does not specify his role.
At Dolby, Rockwell was most recently in charge of the company’s Advanced Technology Group, where he led the “invention of new technology and incubation of new businesses,” according to an archive of Dolby’s executive profiles page. While Dolby is best-known for multichannel audio solutions, Rockwell was interestingly involved in Dolby Vision, a “state-of-the-art color display technology” designed to improve the color rendition and brightness of high-definition displays and capture tools, among other projects.
Prior to his most recent role, Rockwell was in charge of all Dolby product technologies, leading development for “innovations in sound quality in the cinema, in the home, in mobile and portable devices,” according to his biography. Before joining Dolby, where former Apple executives Bob Borchers and Avie Tevanian have taken on senior marketing and director positions, respectively, Rockwell was CTO of Avid, a company specializing in professional video and audio software, and he had a background in audio technology.
Rockwell is one of Apple’s most notable hires from the audio and display space in recent years, but he is not the first. In 2011, Apple hired Thomason Holman of THX and LucasFilm fame to run its audio hardware division, while in 2014, Apple hired audio engineers Dana Massie and Peter Eastty. Combined with its Beats Electronics acquisition in 2014, it seems likely that Apple is working on a significant restructuring of its audio products, ranging from computer speakers, to headphones, to audio software.
While Apple is clearly working toward new audio technologies, the company’s line of standalone cinema displays has remained unchanged since 2011. Apple has upgraded its display technologies across Macs and iOS devices, with the Retina 5K iMac and Retina iPads/iPhones/iPods, but its standalone display offering still uses outdated technologies. Perhaps Apple is taking its time to work on something completely new for video professionals and Rockwell’s background could be instrumental in the future product’s development.
Rockwell resigned from Dolby on January 31st, according to a filing with the SEC.