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Sources: Apple gearing up for back-to-school promotion as early as next week

Apple as early as next week will once again announce its annual back-to-school promotion that has historically offered a free or discounted iOS device to customers purchasing of a new Mac, an event that may prove to be one of the main topics of discussion at the much-hyped employee meetings set to be held at the company's retail stores this Sunday.

People familiar with the Apple's retail operations have told AppleInsider that the company is currently gearing up for its yearly educational promotion. The news comes as numerous reports have revealed that Apple has scheduled early 7 a.m. store meetings with employees this coming Sunday, May 22.

Given that lack of details surrounding those meetings, expectations among industry watchers have run wild, as this Thursday will mark the tenth anniversary of Apple's highly successful retail operations. The first two stores opened in Virginia and California on May 19, 2001.

The planned meetings, combined with the 10-year milestone, have led to speculation that Apple could launch its said-to-be-completed cloud music service. Another report even claimed that Apple could introduce wireless near-field communication payments in its stores this weekend.

But with the annual back-to-school sale set to kick off as soon as next week, the educational promotion is potentially a more likely subject for Sunday's meetings. Additionally, other people familiar with next week's plans say some of the materials and shipments rumored to be making their way to stores around the same time will be part of 'procedural changes' to the way the shops run or operate, rather than new products customers could buy.

As for the company's annual promotion, the timing would fit with years past. Last year's promotion was announced on Tuesday, May 25, and gave students and school faculty the ability to receive a free 8GB iPod touch with the purchase of a Mac.

The offer was a relatively ho-hum affair, with a $949 starting price for the low-end MacBook that was higher than in years past. At the time, the 8GB iPod touch also carried a lower price of $199, though the new FaceTime-enabled 8GB model is now $229.

Previous back-to-school sales also began around the same time, with the 2009 promotion starting on Wednesday, May 27. The 2008 promo launched a bit later, on Monday, June 2, while the 2007 offer made headlines on Tuesday, June 5. The sales typically run until the first week of September, just before new iPod models go on sale.