|New Apple CEO Tim Cook|
CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- These are momentous times at Apple ( AAPL). Just a couple of weeks after Steve Jobs stepped down, new CEO Tim Cook gets to launch a major product: the iPhone 5. What can investors expect from the new iPhone launch, rumored to be imminent? Initial speculation tagged Sep. 7 as a potential launch date, although this now seems unlikely. Apple, however, typically debuts a major product in the late summer/early fall. With Apple under increasing pressure from a deluge of Google ( GOOG) Android devices, the stakes are high for the new iPhone, said Sandeep Aggarwal, an analyst at research firm Digital Route.
"Given that Android has become much stronger competitor since the last iPhone release, Apple must show some killer features/apps to make a bigger dent in the Android ecosystem," he told TheStreet. The headline-grabber for the new iPhone 5 is widely expected to be a "world phone" capability, enabling the device to run on all U.S. and European networks. There has also been talk that Sprint ( S) will join AT&T ( T) and Verizon ( VZ) as an Apple iPhone partner, extending the iPhone 5's reach well beyond that of its predecessors. While tech watchers generally agree that the new iPhone, running the next iteration of iOS 5 software, will be faster, there's been plenty of chatter about it having a bigger screen than the 3.5-inch frame sported by the iPhone 4. Industry trade magazine eWeek also predicts improved graphical capabilities and, potentially, near-field communication (NFC) technology for mobile payments. A 4G LTE version of the iPhone, however, will likely not appear until next year. In addition to the new iPhone 5, we could see a stripped-down freebie iPhone, aimed at the low end of the market. True to form, Apple hasn't publicly said anything about its next iPhone plans and has not yet responded to TheStreet's request for comment on its iPhone launch plans. The biggest change for Apple as it prepares to roll out its hardware, however, will be the absence of Steve Jobs at the company's helm. A visionary capable of predicting major shifts in the consumer tech landscape, Jobs was also a master tactician, carefully orchestrating the company's launches for maximum impact.
While Apple fans will surely miss having the former Apple chief preside over launch events, investors shouldn't worry about his absence during the upcoming phone launch, said Michael Mannor, Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Notre Dame. "This iPhone has been in development for a long time," he told TheStreet. "Just as it is difficult to make dramatic turns with a supertanker, it would be difficult to imagine anything fundamentally different with the process that created this new iPhone -- this is great news for investors who would love to see 'more of the same' from Apple." The iPhone has certainly enjoyed phenomenal success. Apple sold a record 20.3 million iPhones during its recent fiscal third quarter, up from 8.4 million in the same period last year. The company's continued iPhone success, however, now rests on the shoulders of Cook.
"The reality is that Tim Cook is not like Steve Jobs, and he knows that he is not Steve Jobs," said Notre Dame's Mannor. "
But he is talented -- if Apple had gone to the CEO labor market to find the next Steve Jobs, I think investors would have had a lot more to worry about." Describing Jobs as a "once-in-a-generation talent," Mannor thinks that Apple was smart to promote Cook. "One could easily have imagined Apple's board scouring the Earth to find the next Steve Jobs, but they would have failed," he said. "What Apple needed was certainty, a long-term solution, and a safe bridge to the post-Jobs era -- Cook knows what Apple is about and embraces it, but brings a laser-like execution focus that I believe will power tremendous growth into the future." A highly capable stand-in for Jobs during his boss' three medical leaves of absence, Cook is also an IT operations guru, a skill which will prove crucial as Apple unfolds its ambitious cloud strategy. Cook also has some product development breathing space, according to Digital Route's Aggarwal. The analyst predicts that the new exec will get to enjoy a honeymoon period into late 2012 or early 2013, at which point consumers will be looking for the next big wave of Apple innovation. "The real test for Apple, Tim Cook and next generations of Apple products such as iPhone, iPad and Mac does not start immediately after Mr. Jobs' departure as CEO, but perhaps 15 to 18 months from now," he told TheStreet. "I am sure Steve Jobs deeply influenced the next iterations for all the major products for next 12 to 15 months, so the real challenge is what kind of company Apple will be and what kind of CEO Tim Cook will be after a year and a half from now." --Written by James Rogers in New York >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/jamesjrogers. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.