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Friday, March 10, 2006, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

Apple to gather media for Spring event

Apple Computer plans to draw analysts and members of the media to the west coast this Spring for yet another special media event, AppleInsider has learned.

True to industry-wide speculation, the event is expected to fall around the iPod maker's 30th anniversary, which takes place on April 1, 2006. However, Apple is considering holding the event immediately before or after the 1st — not on that date — because it falls on a Saturday, people familiar with some of the company's plans have said.

As has been the case in the past, Apple is expected to use the event to spotlight some of its latest innovations and products in both the personal computer and digital media market segments, those same people said.

While the company's precise plans are shrouded in secrecy as usual, sources are almost certain the event will play host to a new line of 13-inch widescreen consumer iBook notebooks based on Intel microprocessors. Additional announcements such as a high-end 17-inch MacBook Pro and a high-profile iPod-related product may also be in the cards.

The event will mark the third time Apple has summoned the media to such a gathering in a little over 3 months. In January, it used the media frenzy that is Macworld Expo to roll-out Intel-based iMac desktops and MacBook Pro notebooks. A month and a half later, the company invited members of the media to its Cupertino, Calif.-based campus to see the unveiling of the iPod Hi-Fi speaker system and an a petite Intel-based Mac mini desktop computer.

In contrast to the most recent Apple media event, which dished out "medium sized" products and was deemed lackluster by a number of analysts and members of the press, the Spring event is expected to give way to "larger" product introductions that should have a more material impact on the company's results.

According to a recent series of checks, Apple is believed to be considering March 28th and April 4th as two possible dates for the event. However, sources cautioned that those dates are largely dependent on the company's ability to complete development of, and transition to manufacturing, its new products by a set target date.

It's critical that Apple introduce its new line of consumer iBook notebooks by the end of next month if it hopes to capitalize on the educational buying season, analysts have said. The last time the company updated its consumer notebooks was in July of 2005 when it introduced new 12- and 14-inch iBooks with 1.33 GHz or 1.42 GHz PowerPC G4 processors.