By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
May 23, 2008

Thursday was a red-letter day for 3G iPhone rumors. On Wall St., the “rumor of a rumor” of an iPhone delay was enough to drive Apple (AAPL) share prices down 5 points in midafternoon trading. Meanwhile, a dozen subway stops to the north, a line 60 customers deep had formed spontaneously outside the company’s flagship Fifth Ave. store. According to Engadget, at least some of the people in the queue thought the new iPhone had already arrived.

So it was refreshing to receive a note to clients from Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster on Friday morning with some sensible advice about what to expect when Steve Jobs takes the stage at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference on June 9. According to Munster, look for:

  • A new iPhone. Like every Apple analyst on record, he believes Jobs will take this opportunity to unveil an iPhone. But following up on a May 20 note in which Munster cautioned investors to keep their expectations in check, he believes the new device will be almost identical to the current model, with the exception of a 3G chipset to allow faster downloads. iPhones in new shapes and sizes, he expects, won’t come before January ’09.
  • A new OS. With the new iPhone will come a new operating system — OS X iPhone — that will open the device up to enterprise software and to all the 3rd party apps that have been under development since March.
  • Focus on integration. Munster expects Jobs to spend a lot of time highlighting Apple’s “unique value proposition” of having Macs and iPhones running on the same operating system platform. “With control over the hardware and the software, Apple offers a uniquely integrated ecosystem of [consumer electronics] devices, which we believe is driving Mac sales, and vice versa.”
  • New MacBooks. Given that it’s been two years since the MacBook was introduced and that the MacBook Pro is essentially the same design as the PowerBook G4 that came out 5.5 years ago, Munster believes there’s a 60% chance Jobs will introduce redesigned notebooks on June 9 and an 80% chance they will come this summer — in time for the back-to-school sales rush.

So when should iPhone buyers queue up? Like Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz, Munster believes that Apple is planning a worldwide release of the new phones in mid-June — not, as previously speculated, June 27 (opening day of Pixar’s Wall-E and the anniversary, almost to the day, of the first iPhone’s release).

But unlike Gizmodo, Munster gives a good business reason for Jobs to push up the date of release. In a note to clients dated May 16 he points out that a mid-June shipment — one month after the original iPhone was listed as unavailable on its Web site — would allow Apple to book the initial surge of 3G iPhones in the June quarter, making up for all the iPhone sales the company lost in May.

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