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TheStreet Open House

New Apple CEO Begins With Rare Stumble for Company

iPhone 4S launch comments from JMP Securities analyst added to this update.

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) took 15 months to bring a new iPhone public, longer than usual. Perhaps the company should have waited and saved new CEO Tim Cook from the embarrassment of trying to sell consumers on the underwhelming iPhone 4S.

To escape the shadow of former CEO Steve Jobs, Cook needed to be flawless on stage Tuesday in his first major presentation as head of Apple. While Cook's performance was solid and other key executives shared the spotlight, this wasn't the best time for the newly crowned king of all gadget companies to be thrown to the lions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the Oct. 4 event, which introduced the new iPhone 4S.

Make no mistake about it, Apple disappointed consumers Tuesday. Apple's much-ballyhooed "Let's Talk iPhone" event lasted more than 100 minutes and, at the end of that grueling marathon, consumers have little to be excited about. The iPod lineup, which usually receives a complete makeover in September before the holiday season, was left relatively untouched as prices were lowered. The new iOS 5 software was allotted a big chunk of time, although most of the presentation parroted what was introduced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Instead, the major announcement at Apple's big media event was the iPhone 4S, a handset that looks exactly like the current iPhone 4 that was released in June 2010. The internal guts of the phone are upgraded, but potential iPhone buyers who aren't Apple fanatics will likely have trouble discerning one from the other. The company needed its best salesman to pitch the iPhone 4S to rabid fans. That person was not Tim Cook.

The disappointment over the new iPhone 4S is loud. Apple fans and investors were worked into a fervor over a possible unveiling of an iPhone 5, which was reported to have a different form and operated on faster LTE and WiMax data networks. In TheStreet's live blog of Apple's product announcement, the unveiling of the iPhone 4S was greeted with a smattering of boos:

Wow, such a disappointment ... 15 months it took to come out with 4S

FAIL!!! I'm going to Verizon now and buying 4 droids with 4G and selling my Apple stuff!

I am anticipating riots, gang wars, and much violence because of this lackluster announcement.

Who would NOW want to buy a 4S when we know the 5 will be released sometime later?

For investors, the reaction to the iPhone 4S should be worrisome. To be sure, Apple is going to sell plenty of iPhone 4S handsets. The improved camera, faster processor, and new voice-recognition feature will be enough to persuade consumers to upgrade. Mike Abramsky, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, says he expects a similar surprising uptake like that of the iPhone 3GS; Abramsky's iPhone forecast remains at 110 million for fiscal 2012, a 48% increase from a year earlier, with 27 million sold in Apple's first fiscal quarter.

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