Apple makes it official, slates iPhone event for Oct. 4

Expected to unveil the new iPhone 5 at its Cupertino HQ

Apple today announced an Oct. 4 event on its Cupertino, Calif. campus to unveil its newest iPhone.

"Let's talk iPhone," Apple said in the invitation sent today to reporters, analysts and bloggers.

The invite was typically terse, composed of a graphic showing several app icons and directions to the event. But the mention of iPhone was somewhat out of character; Apple has a history of being coy about the topics of the events it calls on short notice.

Apple will start the event, which it called an "executive presentation," at 10 a.m. PT.

The date was accurately pegged last week by the "AllThingsD" blog, operated by Dow Jones, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, in a post Sept 21. Later, other sources reported that Apple would hold the iPhone event at its own headquarters rather than at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where it's staged some product launches.

Because of Apple's secrecy, little is known about the next iPhone, dubbed by most as the "iPhone 5," although speculation has been rife, revolving around a range of new features and improvements that run from more memory for applications to a slightly-larger screen.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, had trouble listing his expectations for the new smartphone.

"Frankly, I'm running low on new things they can do to the iPhone," said Gottheil. "Maybe a slightly wider screen, and the usual thinner, lighter, faster that they always talk about."

Rumors of an improved camera have also circulated.

"They clearly want to make the specs better, but there's not a lot of room for technological breakthroughs," said Gottheil.

Apple is expected to launch iOS 5, the next version of its mobile operating system, either slightly before or alongside the Oct. 4 debut of the iPhone.

iPhone invite
Apple makes it clear that the Oct. 4 event will be all about the iPhone. (Image: IDG News Service.)

Among the features Gottheil anticipates seeing in iOS 5 is improved voice recognition that will be used to issue commands to the new iPhone.

In 2010, Apple acquired Siri, a maker of a personal assistant app for the iPhone, for a reported $200 million. Talk has made the rounds about how Apple has combined the technology from Siri with that of Nuance, the company best known for its Dragon Dictate line of voice recognition software, to create a new voice-controlled "Assistant."

Yesterday, the Apple-oriented 9to5Mac blog suggested that Assistant will run only on the iPhone 5 because of the software's processor and memory requirements.

The Oct. 4 kickoff of the iPhone 5 will be the first Apple smartphone introduction since co-founder Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO. Jobs hinted that he was resigning for health reasons.

Gottheil said Apple would be smart not to bring Jobs onto the stage next week.

"I have a sense that they don't want to perpetuate the 'Will he show or won't he?' talk," said Gottheil, of Jobs' appearance. "Although they may invite him back from time to time, his health permitting, I don't think they'll [invite] him for this first event under the new regime."

Apple appointed former chief operating officer Tim Cook as CEO on the same day that Jobs announced he was resigning the post. Cook will likely lead the presentation next week, said Gottheil.

If Apple follows the pace it used last March for the iPad 2, the new iPhone will go on sale the week following the Oct. 4 introduction.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

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