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Expect Apple to come out swinging at Tim Cook’s first announcement as CEO

by Phil Hornshaw

For some time now, we’ve been talking about all the new things Apple has in the pipe. Announced and unannounced, we know from the way Apple operates that a new iPhone handset is bound to be coming our way sometime soon, and that a new version of the company’s mobile platform, iOS 5, is due sometime this fall.

Since iOS updates and iPhone updates tend to go hand-in-hand, it wouldn’t be crazy to expect them together in one big announcement that has a major effect on all iPhone (and iPad) owners at once. Now we have a reported date for that event, Oct. 4, according to AllThingsD. That’s pretty much in line with the rumors and other reports that have been floating around for a bit now, so it seems reasonable to expect to hear about a new iPhone (or iPhones) on that date, along with a probable announcement for the solid release of iOS 5.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple pulls its trademark “one more thing” at this announcement and throws out something big, exciting and unexpected. This will be the first big announcement without Steve Jobs in the CEO spot, and the first with Tim Cook at the helm.

Cook has much to prove

When former CEO and Apple founder Jobs stepped down about two months ago, a few tremors of worry shot through the tech world and through investors. Jobs has been seen by many as being the innovation behind Apple, and certainly the force that has brought the company from a trailing computer manufacturer to the insane prominence it sees today: the leading smartphone manufacturer, the legitimizer of the tablet computing market and the company whose computer customers are the most satisfied of any in the business. Many wondered whether post-Jobs Apple would be the same company.

Oct. 4 is the first time that Tim Cook, Jobs’ successor (Steve himself remains the chairman of the board of directors and is reportedly “closely involved” with Apple’s current run of products), will be really heading things up. Even though Cook has been the de facto leader of Apple for most of 2011 already because of Jobs’ medical leave, this is his first rodeo with the title, the reins and the whole of Apple riding on his shoulders, just as Jobs carried it.

Cook has said that Apple under his leadership would be the same place as Jobs’ Apple. On Oct. 4 (or maybe some nearby date), he’ll likely take the chance to prove it.

And just to make sure that investors, journalists and Apple customers don’t have any doubts, I’d expect Cook to step out on stage, announce the iPhone 5 and iOS 5 (and maybe the iPhone 4S), and then take the opportunity to blow a few socks off.

What might that be? To be honest, I’m not really sure. There are a number of big announcements that Apple could make, like the addition of Sprint (and maybe, still, T-Mobile) to its iPhone lineup. Or maybe we’ll hear about a killer new function for iOS 5, iTunes in the Cloud or some other already-announced service that Apple’s been holding back for just this occasion. Or – and this feels significantly more likely – it could be something I can’t even guess at.

The point is, Cook has some big shoes to fill, and his very first announcement as CEO is a good opportunity to really own the title and put down any fears at the loss of Jobs as Apple’s leader. The best way to do that: wow everybody. Again.