GoPro has hired Danny Coster, a member of Apple's industrial design team. Coster will take over as vice president of design, and will reportedly head up a new hardware design group within the company. The news was first reported by The Information.
Coster isn't as well known as someone like Jony Ive, but The Information points out that he's had his hands on projects like the iPhone and has worked for Apple since the early 1990s. Apple typically portrays its industrial design team as a tight-knit group, with carefully vetted hires. That makes turnover extremely rare.
It's also surprising because of past tensions (and small, but obvious overlap) between GoPro and Apple. If any company has motive to loosen Apple's grip on an employee, though, it's GoPro. The action camera company followed a hugely successful 2014 with a largely disappointing 2015 that alarmed industry analysts. In particular, the company's revenue in the fourth quarter of 2015 dipped low enough that GoPro reduced its own projections for 2016 by a few hundred million dollars and laid off seven percent of its staff.
GoPro needs a boost — especially on the hardware side
Nick Woodman, GoPro's CEO, has tried to connect the company's struggles to its software. His argument is that GoPro cameras make shooting great footage easy, but that users find themselves in a "dark forest" of editing with "no way out." Woodman has said a number of times that he's committed to making the experience of editing GoPro footage faster, more automatic, and easier to understand, and the company is clearly working to back this up — it recently acquired two companies that are behind popular automatic editing apps.
But it can't be overlooked that GoPro hasn't released a flagship camera since the Hero 4 Black and Silver went on sale in the fall of 2014. GoPro instead spent 2015 releasing a few mid- and low-range cameras in 2015, which seemed shrewd but ultimately backfired. People seemed to like the Hero 4 Session, but GoPro had to slash the price in half to get anyone to buy it, and the company's cheapest two cameras — the Hero+ and Hero+ LCD — are being discontinued less than a year after they were announced.
In an official release, GoPro says that Coster will help "influence all aspects of design at GoPro," including both hardware and software. Coster will likely help GoPro finally bring its next action camera, the long-rumored Hero 5, to market. But he's also going to be busy in the short-term: GoPro plans on releasing a consumer-grade 360-degree camera and the company's first quadcopter sometime this summer.
Update April 13th, 2:25PM ET: Added info from official GoPro release.