Steve Jobs as CEO? No problem.
Apple, Inc. (AAPL) is, according to All Things Digital, preparing
to hold an exclusive event on October 4, 2011 to launch the fifth generation
iPhone and the final build of iOS 5. New chief executive Tim Cook is expected to
announce the product.
Given Mr. Cook's shy public demeanor, he's expected to recruit plenty of other
Apple executives to play supporting roles at the event, including SVP of
Marketing Phil Schiller, iOS SVP Scott Forstall, and Internet Software and
Services SVP Eddy Cue. The products themselves are likely to almost take
a second-stage show to how Mr. Schiller handles the responsibility of becoming
the Apple ringleader. How he handles that responsibility should serve as
a key driver of investor confidence. With stock sitting at record highs, it's anyone's guess where
it heads next, but it's likely to move after the event.
The name of the upcoming phone is still the topic of much debate. Some
claim that since the hardware update will be more minor, it will be dubbed the
"iPhone 4S". Others claim that it will be named the iPhone 5,
in honor of it being the fifth generation model.
As for the product itself, Apple's new iPhone is expected to pack a faster processor, possibly an HSPA+ modem,
and a larger screen. The iPhone is also rumored to land on Sprint Nextel
Corp.'s (S) U.S. network, possibly
with a WiMAX 4G chip.
Even after being on the market for over a year, the iPhone 4 still managed to top sales charts at AT&T
Inc. (T) and Verizon
Communications Inc. (VZ) for every month in
calendar Q3 2011. The iPhone 4 still leads almost all Android phones in
screen resolution (960x640 pixels) and in apps (Apple has around 425,000 in the
App Store, Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android Market has around 250,000).
Aside from the screen, the iPhone 4's hardware lags behind the plethora of
high-end Android smartphones in other aspects and its OS still lacks the
customization/personalization opportunities of Android (without jailbreaking).
The release may be critical for Apple's long-term prospects. After all,
in the 1980s the Apple II handily outsold the host of IBM compatibles on a
single-model basis. However, its eroding market share from an operating
system perspective led developers to abandon it for Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) young MS-DOS platform, and later Windows.
Apple almost went bankrupt in the process.
With Android currently outselling the iPhone by a 5-to-2 margin globally and growing market
share faster, Apple faces a similar danger today in the smartphone market in
the long term. It has seen some success in its lawsuit
campaign  from banning
successful competitors' sales, via claims of patent infringement. And it runs the risk of seeing its own
products banned in some regions.
Thus the iPhone 5 launch event won't necessarily be critical to Apple's
near-term sales, which will almost certainly be "record-setting" and spectacular.
What it will be critical to is investors' perception of the company's new
CEO and to the company's long-term sales.