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Apple Inc. said top hardware executive Dan Riccio is stepping down from his role to lead a new project at the company and John Ternus, one of his top lieutenants, will replace him.

Riccio has been senior vice president of hardware engineering since 2012, overseeing development of the hardware in the iPhone, iPad, Mac and audio products like the AirPods and HomePod. Ternus, who Bloomberg reported last year was poised to replace Riccio, has been vice president of hardware engineering since 2013, and was most recently leading the iPhone, Mac and iPad engineering groups.

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Riccio will remain at the company as a vice president of engineering and focus on a new project reporting to Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, the Cupertino, California-based tech giant said Monday in a statement. “I’m looking forward to doing what I love most — focusing all my time and energy at Apple on creating something new and wonderful that I couldn’t be more excited about," Riccio said in the statement.

Apple didn’t specify Riccio’s new assignment, but the company has at least two major hardware initiatives in the works: a self-driving car and headsets for augmented reality and virtual reality. In his previous role, Apple’s head of AR and VR hardware reported to Riccio, while the car project was moved under the leadership of John Giannandrea, the company’s machine learning chief, last year.

Apple is working on a consumer-oriented self-driving car, but it won’t launch for at least five to seven years, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month. Apple is however inching closer to announcing its first VR-focused headset as early as next year, whereas lightweight AR glasses won’t launch until several years later.

Riccio joined Apple in 1998 and succeeded Bob Mansfield as hardware engineering chief nine years ago. When Mansfield left that job, he also remained at Apple and in 2016 became the head of the car project before retiring last year. Riccio briefly oversaw the car project in its early stages.

Apple in recent years has pushed Ternus into the public eye. When the company was criticized several years ago because its Mac computers had been updated infrequently and lacked features demanded by professional users such as photo and video editors and app developers, Ternus was the prime executive responding to the complaints and pledging to improve the machines. In November, Ternus announced new Mac laptops that were the first to use company-designed chips.

A person who knows Ternus told Bloomberg in September that he is a well-respected manager who understands the technology, and despite his rising profile, has remained unassuming — all characteristics of a potential future company division head or even CEO.

Around the beginning of 2020, Ternus’s responsibilities expanded to include the iPhone. Prior to that change, Riccio spent the bulk of his time on the handset, the product that generates the bulk of Apple’s sales. He also worked closely with Jony Ive, Apple’s former design chief who departed in 2019.

Riccio is the second top executive to leave Apple’s leadership team in the past year while remaining at the company in another role. Phil Schiller, Apple’s former senior vice president, was named an Apple Fellow last year leading the App Store, public relations and the creation of Apple product announcements.

Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams remains the only holdover from the executive team that served under former CEO and co-founder the late Steve Jobs. Every member under Cook has been either promoted to or hired for the executive team since Cook was named CEO in 2011.

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