Reading between the lines of an Apple (aapl) press release issued early Wednesday, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster believes the company has lined up two important events for the end of June: The return of CEO Steve Jobs and the unveiling of the next generation iPhone.
What Apple announced was that the keynote address for this year's World Wide Developers Conference will be delivered by marketing vice president Phil Schiller on June 8 and will focus not on new hardware but on software that Apple has been talking about for months: iPhone 3.0 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard.
In fact, Snow Leopard was introduced by a shockingly gaunt Steve Jobs at last year's WWDC keynote; it was his appearance at that event that first raised questions about his health.
Jobs is half-way through the fifth month of a six-month medical leave, and the announcement that Schiller will be delivering this year's keynote in his place seems to have put an end to speculation that he might be come back a few weeks early.
"Although this may raise some concern among investors that Steve Jobs will not return [at all]," wrote Munster, "we continue to expect his return to the company by the end of June."
Munster points out that for Jobs to deliver a keynote address in less than a month, he would have had to have begun preparation well before his intended return date. The analyst believes Jobs may return to Apple with a reduced role, possibly as chairman, with COO Tim Cook assuming the CEO position.
Munster also sought to reassure investors who had hoped that the successor to the iPhone 3G might be unveiled at the June 8 keynote. Instead, he expects Apple to schedule a second event, jam-packed with news:
"We expect Apple to host a special event in late June or early July to launch a family of iPhones. We continue to expect multiple models, possibly a high-end iPhone with improved specs from the current version and a low-end version with lower capacity and fewer features along with a reduced pricing plan. Such a model could also be used in Apple's launch of the iPhone into China as soon as the end of summer '09.
Apple shares fell 3.97% Tuesday in advance of any significant company news and another 3.96% after the news on Wednesday.
This year's WWDC runs from June 8 - 12 and will be held, as usual, in San Francisco's Moscone Center. Thanks to intense developer interest in both the iPhone and the new Mac OS, this year's event sold out in record time.