Apple's September 9 event: 5 hot bets

The caption on Apple's September invite reads: "It's only rock and roll, but we like it." A clue?

Now that Apple has confirmed it's planning an invitation-only bash September 9 in San Francisco, our time to speculate is running short. What new stuff is coming?

First, let's scratch the much-anticipated Apple tablet off the list. While there's little doubt that Cupertino is cooking up some sort of iPod touch-on-steroids device -- or perhaps something more sophisticated -- the latest rumors say the device won't debut before next year.--

Besides, the caption on Apple's September invite reads: "It's only rock and roll, but we like it." A clue?

"I think that's a bit of a hint that it's not going to be a tablet," says Michael Gartenberg, an analyst for market researcher Interpret. "This is a music event, not a tablet introduction."

Which means an iPod-themed event. "It is September. The leaves start to turn, and that's typically when Apple refreshes a new bumper crop of iPods," Gartenberg adds.

So what's coming? "I expect the iPod line up to get fully refreshed," says IDC analyst Danielle Levitas. "I'm leaning toward an iPod Touch with a camera."

Five possibilities to consider:

1. iPod touch with a video camera: The iPhone 3GS captures video, so why shouldn't the iPod touch? Recent photos rounding the Web purportedly show an iPod touch prototype with a rear-facing camera. This rumor sounds very feasible.

2. iPod Nano with a still-image camera: This upgrade could be a good way to breathe new life into the standalone MP3 player market, which is on the decline and ultimately will go the way of the PDA. The Nano may lack the power and storage to handle video, but it's a strong candidate for a simple digital cam.

3. Major upgrade of iTunes: "There will almost certainly be a new version, depending on what features Apple adds to the new crop of devices," Gartenberg says. The question is whether the upgrade will be major or minor. Some industry watchers expect Apple to add social networking features to iTunes.

4. Apple TV update: The black sheep of Cupertino's home entertainment ecosphere, Apple TV hasn't exactly caught on with the masses. Levitas believes it's time for a "refreshed home system," which could mean an overhauled Apple TV. Might the device evolve into a gaming console? Perhaps, but one thing's for certain: Apple needs to do a better job of explaining to consumers what the video-streaming box does--and why they should care.

5. Steve Jobs: He's back at work and reportedly making life miserable for Apple engineers working on the tablet. So why not a few words from the CEO to rally the troops?

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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