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Sources: Apple planning biggest back-to-school promo yet

Apple as early as Monday is expected to announce its 2008 back-to-school promotion, which will encourage students to purchase a new Mac through some of the biggest incentives in the company's history, AppleInsider has learned.

Company senior vice president Ron Johnson stoked anticipation of the promo a few weeks ago while addressing some of his retail staff, people familiar with the matter say. Specifically, Johnson is said to have promised that this year's promo would be the biggest "ever" for Apple.

While it's unclear exactly what that means, speculation among those familiar with past promotions believe there's a possibility the Cupertino-based company will tie some of its touch-screen handhelds into the mix — like the 8GB iPod touch.

Last year's promo offered teachers and students up to a $199 rebate when they purchased a qualifying Mac and either a video iPod or iPod nano at the same time of purchase.

The deal translated into a free 4GB iPod nano, which was then priced at $199. However, participants also had the option to apply the $199 rebate towards the purchase of a pricier 8GB iPod nano or video iPod. The iPhone, Apple TV and refurbished products were excluded from the deal.

In 2006, Apple offered a similar rebate for $179, or the then current cost of a 2GB iPod nano. In 2005 the deal was the same, but good towards a free iPod mini.

In terms of qualified Mac systems, Apple has always excluded the Mac mini from its back-to-school promotions due to its extremely low cost. However, all other Mac systems — Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iMac — have been eligible.

This year, the MacBook Air is expected to join the roster of Macs acceptable for the promotion. Students and teachers will also get to apply their education discounts towards the deal.

On Tuesday, Apple will also be updating some of its retail store planograms, sources say.