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Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 05:30 am PT (08:30 am ET)

Apple schedules secret retail employee meeting this weekend [u]

Apple has asked its retail employees to sign non-disclosure agreements ahead of an all-hands meeting likely to be held later this week, AppleInsider has been told [updated with new details].

People familiar with the company's retail plans revealed that Apple employees on Monday were asked to sign non-disclosure forms. Those who did not sign are said to be excluded from the next employee meeting, expected to be held in the next week.

Those privy to Apple's brick-and-mortar businesses indicated the meeting was originally scheduled for last week. But the meeting was apparently pushed back for one week, for reasons unknown.

According to Gary Allen of ifoAppleStore.com, Apple typically holds its all-team meetings at the company's retail stores after closing on Sunday evenings.

Update: Since the initial story was filed, AppleInsider has received additional suggestions that the all-hands meeting is likely related to a new in-store initiative or service.

Numerous signs have indicated that Apple has imminent plans to refresh its MacBook Pro line of notebooks. But those products are widely believed to debut on Thursday to coincide with Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs' birthday, and prior to the expected employee meeting on Sunday.

The news of the non-disclosure agreement comes as pundit Robert X. Cringely confidently began his latest column on Monday with: "Next week Apple will have a product event." Cringely presumes the event will be used to introduce new MacBook Pro models with Intel's high-speed Light Peak technology.

But in the event that the new MacBook Pro launch occurs as expected on Thursday, the most likely subject for a presumed Apple media event would be the anticipated second-generation iPad. Numerous reports have suggested that Apple began production of the "iPad 2" in early 2011, on track for a launch by early April, which would mark one year since the first-generation device went on sale in the U.S.

The next iPad is expected to have a camera for FaceTime video chat, as well as a faster processor with more RAM and improved graphics performance. Third-party cases claimed to fit the second-generation iPad have also included space for a mystery port that could mean a built-in Mini DisplayPort for video out.