Jeff Williams, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering at N.C. State and an MBA at Duke, is the new chief operating officer at Apple. He also is a former IBMer.

Could Williams be next Apple CEO?

That’s what Yahoo! News declared in its story about Williams’ promotion by Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, who also earned an MBA at Duke.

“Williams will be Cook’s right hand man going into this critical transformational period for Apple,” Daniel Ives, senior analyst at FBR Capital Markets, told Yahoo. “The COO vacancy needed to be filled with the right fit and Williams has a ton of respect within Cupertino as well as in the technology community.”

The COO post had been vacant since Cook left the position more than four years ago to become CEO.

Williams has worked at Apple for about 17 years and supervised the launch of the Apple Watch, which went on sale earlier this year.

The company said he played a “key role” in the launch of the iPhone.

Apple also announced Thursday that it hired Tor Myhren from advertising company Grey Group to be vice president of marketing communications. He will start early next year and will oversee Apple’s advertisements, websites and product packaging. At Grey, Myhren was chief creative officer and president of its New York office.

Apple Inc., based in Cupertino, California, also expanded the roles of two other executives.

It upped Johny Srouji’s position to senior vice president of hardware technologies from vice president and said Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller would now add Apple’s app store to his responsibilities.