The Next Apple Event and Product Updates

With the September event behind us, it’s time to look forward to the next Apple (s aapl) event, as long as you’re not expecting new Macs.
To recap, there have been four Apple events in 2010:

  • In January, the iPad was unveiled.
  • In April, iPhone OS 4 was previewed.
  • In June, the iPhone 4 was launched at WWDC ‘10, and iOS 4 was previewed again.
  • In September, iTunes 10, new iPods and an Apple TV were launched, as well as iOS 4.1 and 4.2 previews.

If there’s been any trend in 2010, it’s found in what’s been missing. No Apple event, including WWDC, has seen the introduction of a new Mac. Even the redesigned Mac mini arrived with no more advance notice than the familiar yellow sticky note when the Apple Store went down. Don’t expect that to change this year.

The Return of the Air

The iMac and the Mac Pro were updated in July, the Mac mini in June. The MacBook and MacBook Pros were updated in spring, and can expect a minor, non-event update this fall. That leaves the MacBook Air, last updated in June 2009.

Sandy Bridge, Intel’s latest microprocessor architecture, is made for the MacBook Air, as the 32nm processor puts both the CPU and GPU on a single die. Early reports suggest the integrated graphics are comparable to low-end discrete graphics and will support OpenCL. While all Mac portables will benefit from the new chipset, the MacBook Air has the most to gain in performance and battery life.

With the 13” MacBook Pro and the iPad encroaching on its niche from opposite ends of performance and portability, the MacBook Air is probably doomed. If not, the most logical date for a significant revision is early 2011 when Sandy Bridge goes into production. While it’s still unlikely we’ll see the MacBook Air featured at an Apple event, there won’t be a better time.

iApps Ring in the New Year

Despite listings on Amazon (s amzn) for iLife ‘11 that have since disappeared, and rumors of iLife being introduced at the September event proving untrue, it’s hard to imagine Apple’s flagship consumer applications just showing up on a Tuesday morning. Instead, it’s more likely they’ll appear alongside new computers. Both iWork and iLife for OS X were last updated in January of 2009, so again the logical time would early next year.

Two iPad 2’s

January saw the iPad introduced to the world, followed by sales in April and May for the Wi-Fi and 3G models respectively. Don’t expect that to happen again. Apple will launch the next generation iPad in either winter or spring of 2011 for immediate sale, and it seems increasingly likely it will be spring.

The latest from the unreliable but entertaining DigiTimes asserts parts suppliers are preparing shipments for a 9.7-inch iPad with “ultra-thin glass-based” displays. Previous rumors suggested the iPad 2 will have a new ARM Cortex A9 CPU and 512MB RAM. Other rumored features include cameras and FaceTime support.

Supposedly, there will also be a 7-inch iPad, which seems less and less improbable (despite the opinion of others here) with the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. With a 7-inch AMOLED display, front and rear cameras and Android 2.2 (s goog), this will be the first potential competitor to the iPad.

The Tab will be arriving soon in the U.S. with a 3G model for each wireless carrier, and the Wi-Fi model will likely be here by Christmas. Don’t expect Apple to let what happened to the iPhone happen to the iPad. What happened to the iPhone? Verizon.

Big Red on White

Verizon (s vz) provided the launching platform for Android’s surge in smartphone market share over the last year. Unmet demand for the Verizon iPhone makes the product almost an open secret, with conventional rumor wisdom pointing to a launch in early 2011.

Announced in June, the white iPhone was almost immediately delayed, proving “more challenging to manufacture than expected.” Speculation has the mix of paint and dyes proving difficult to tint to Steve Jobs’ approval. Don’t expect Apple to begin selling the white iPhone until sufficient numbers can be produced. While Christmas is a good guess, Steve Jobs pulling a white Verizon iPhone from his jeans pocket in January adds extra hype.

Apple Event ’11

To state the obvious, don’t expect anything more than speed bumps for some Macs in 2010. It won’t happen at an Apple event, either, not unless you count fanboys and girls sitting around their Macs hitting refresh on the Apple Store web page early on a Tuesday as an “event.”

January is the logical guess for the next Apple event, but not before Jan. 9. That’s the last day of the International Consumer Electronics Show, which Apple will not attend despite yearly rumors to the contrary.

Sadly, Apple will not be attending Macworld 2011, either, though it is the perfect venue for a diverse keynote featuring Apple computers, software, and consumer electronics. However, the last Apple event was streamed to anyone with a Mac or an iOS device.

Macworld 2011 will be taking place Jan. 26 through 29, and Jan. 27 is the one-year anniversary of the iPad debut. The timing could work out very well for both the convention and Apple, even without direct interaction between the two.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Apple Company Profile