Analyst rains on rumor parade for Apple's Sept. 1 event

Expect the usual emphasis on iPod, but 'no big deal' for Apple TV

Apple will stick to its practice of revamping its iPod line next week, but other moves, including possible tweaks to its Apple TV box, will likely be minor, a Wall Street analyst said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Apple issued invitations to a Sept. 1 press event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco.

As is Apple's practice, the invitation lacked any information about what Apple will announce or tout, although the artwork -- a guitar with a sound hole in the shape of the company's logo -- suggested a music-oriented event. The event will start at 10 a.m. PT.

Brian Marshall, an analyst with Gleacher & Co., bet that the emphasis will be on the iPod, particularly the iPod Touch, with some minor announcements about iTunes and Apple TV. But he wasn't optimistic about seeing any groundbreaking new products or services.

"It'll be about the iPod," he said. "Apple TV, that's still chugging along. They will likely introduce [an Apple TV] in a sleeker case with more storage, but that's not going to be a big deal."

Marshall stuck to his previous predictions that Apple won't make a major move with Apple TV until it's ready to marry the device to a flat-screen television for a full-fledged assault on the living room.

Nor will Apple make sweeping changes to iTunes, such as introducing a long-rumored subscription-based music service to compete with the likes of Rhapsody. Marshall said he expected that during the first half of 2011, after Apple has brought online its new North Carolina-based data center.

The $1 billion data center will wrap up construction by the end of this year, Apple executives said last month during a quarterly earnings call with financial analysts.

This will be the fifth year running that Apple has hosted an iPod-oriented event in September. During last year's Sept. 9 event, CEO Steve Jobs made his first public appearance since taking a several-month-long leave to undergo a liver transplant.

Then, Jobs announced price cuts to some iPod Touch models and touted major changes to iTunes.

Apple had dropped the price of the iPod Touch the year before as well.

Like most analysts, Marshall said that Apple would finally put a camera in the iPod Touch, and would debut it in a new design that mimics the iPhone 4 .

One possible modification to iTunes, said Marshall, would be the addition of TV show rentals, a change reported today by Bloomberg , which said Apple is in discussions with News Corp.'s Fox, as well as with CBS, NBC Universal and Walt Disney, to offer customers TV show rentals for 99 cents. Bloomberg cited confidential sources with knowledge of the plans.

"Fast forward a bit, to early next year," said Marshall. "By then, there will have been a total of 200 million shipments of iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, all the devices that run Apple's iOS. That makes Apple a cable company with 200 million subscribers."

In comparison, Comcast, the U.S.'s largest cable television provider, has approximately 42 million subscribers to its video services, according to the company's latest data.

Among the unknowns for next week is whether Apple will release iOS 4 to iPad owners.

The company has said it would do so sometime in the fall, but has not set a date. However, it has regularly used the September event to issue updates to its mobile operating system. Last year, for example, Apple launched iOS 3.1 the same day as its iPod press event.

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

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