Oxford, MS 10/3/2011 (PennyPayDay) – Tim Cook finally gets his chance to stride out from under Steve Jobs' shadow, and he could not have picked a better time or device to mark his unofficial debut as Apple Inc's CEO.
The latest generation of the iPhone -- still the smartphone industry's gold standard after four years -- is expected to see the light of day this Tuesday, just in time for the holidays.
Even in a dismal economy, consumers should again line up in droves for a souped-up device that also marks Cook's first major product launch since taking over from Jobs in August.
The so-called iPhone 5 is widely expected to have a bigger touchscreen and faster processor than the current iPhone 4, which helped the company stay a step ahead of rivals in an increasingly competitive smartphone market.
Its challenge will be to "wow" consumers with yet more game-changing innovations and top itself. The aging iPhone 4 is still an unqualified blockbuster: with more than 20 million sold in the third quarter that ended June 25 alone, it is likely to become the world's top-selling smartphone.
"Consumers view Apple products as a must-have," said Channing Smith, co-manager of the Capital Advisors Growth Fund, which owns Apple shares. "Apple phones and products have become almost a necessity. We don't expect them to falter."
But the latest version of the gadget that helped define the smartphone category is coming at a time when the world economy is slowing and competition is at its peak. More than 550,000 Google Inc Android-based devices -- including tablets -- are activated each day globally.
Apple's ability to generate enthusiasm among consumers and its command of the higher-end market, however, may make it less susceptible to a broader slowdown, investors and analysts say.
Cook is likely to take the stage at Apple central at Cupertino's 1 Infinite Loop, where Wall Street will get a chance to see first-hand how the acknowledged operations maven fares at a major product launch. Although a highly regarded executive, he is not known for pitching products.