Apple will unveil iPhone 5 on October 4?

Let the iPhone 5 rumors begin in earnest now. All Things Digital, which has a pretty good track record reporting rumors right, says that Apple will hold a big media event on October 4, presumably to announce iPhone 5. Uh-oh, AT&T's unexpected and unexplained Samsung Galaxy S II delay could get ugly now.

Predicting what the event means, assuming it's happening as rumored, is trickier than you might think. Apple has been holding October media events for years, usually to announce new Macs. This year is different. Apple didn't announced new iPods in September or iPhone in June, as is typical. So this event could be much bigger than iPhone 5 -- or not, if Apple chooses to announce iMacs and iPods as is seasonally typical -- and iPhone 5 later. Then there is Tim Cook's role as new CEO. This will be a big day for him, and, therefore, big for Apple.

If launched October 4, then many people will ask when iPhone 5 will be available in stores? Apple 2.0 blogger Philip Elmer-DeWitt has prepared a chart comparing launch dates to sale dates (now I don't have to). There have been rumors of October 15, which I discounted because it's a Saturday. Apple typically starts selling iPhone in stores on a Friday. My guess: Friday October 14 in stores, with preorders starting no later than October 7; if Cook is smart, sooner.

That's the other challenge with this launch and why sooner is more likely than later, unless Cook wants some criticism for muffing it up. Holidays are approaching fast, and Apple needs to get this phone out the door globally as quickly as possible. That's nearly 230 carriers worldwide, which is a potential logistical nightmare as Christmas approaches. Well, perhaps Apple can scare up broad distribution for Halloween.

LOL, maybe new CEO Cook has stage fright, and that's the reason for delaying everything. He does have big shoes to fill in Apple Chairman Steve Jobs, whose so-called "reality distortion field" spellbounds people listening to his product launches. Jobs has a unique way of highlighting products' benefits, mixed with charisma. I've often said that when Jobs is having an off day, people leaving his speech feel like their lives will be better if they buy product X, Y or Z. If Jobs is in the zone, people leave feeling that if they don't buy product X, Y or Z their lives will be worse.

Sorry, but Cook simply doesn't have that kind of charisma. He's more soft-spoken, analytical. He is Spock to Jobs' James T. Kirk. So it will be interesting to see how Cook and company pull off what will be a massive product launch, whether measured by iPhone 5's introduction or launch of new products in three categories -- Macs, media players and smartphones. Five really, because of iOS 5 and Apple's further push into connected online services with iCloud.

So those shoes aren't just big because of Jobs, but how much Cook must deliver, even if only iOS 5, iPhone 5 and iCloud. Isn't stage fright a bitch?

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