Apple's October 20 reveal: 5 theories

What will the tech giant unveil at its highly anticipated event on Wednesday?

The event's invitation, which includes a glimpse of a lion, has fans guessing that Apple will debut a new operating system to update Snow Leopard.
(Image credit: Screen shot)

With Apple's "Back to the Mac" event set to go down on Wednesday, tech blogs are rife with speculation over which new products the company might unleash. Commentators agree that, unlike recent events focusing on mobile platforms like the iPhone, this showcase will, indeed, be all about the company's core Mac computer offerings — but beyond that, there's plenty of room for debate. Here are five theories on what Apple might unveil tomorrow:

1. A new MacBook Air

AppleInsider quotes "independent sources" who confirm that new, 11.6-inch versions of the ultra-thin MacBook Air "have been rolling off Apple's Taiwanese manufacturing lines for at least a week now." (The current version has a 13-inch screen.) The updated model also does away with any kind of hard-drive option "in favor something described as an SSD Card," which "more closely resembles a stick of RAM." Other possible specs for the improved Air, according to CNET: A longer battery life and a starting price "significantly lower than the current $1,499."

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2. A new operating system

The invitation to the event "contains an image of what appears to be a lion peeking out from behind the Apple logo, says MacRumors. This hint points to an operating system upgrade from 10.6 to 10.7, since "lion" has been one of the most commonly suggested "big cat" names for the next-generation software. (Previous incarnations have included Tiger, Panther, and the current Leopard.)

3. Better laptops

It's also possible, says AppleInsider, that Apple will use Wednesday's announcement to up the value proposition on the current crop of MacBooks "through modest enhancements such as processor and graphics speed bumps." There's room for improvement on both MacBooks and MacBook Pros — neither have received updates in recent months, and both "still lack Intel's latest generation of Core i3 microprocessors."

4. Updated iLife and iWork

The software suite iLife, which is designed to edit and organize photos and videos, and iWork, which focuses on business presentations, haven't seen updates since 2009. So "it would come as no surprise to me" if both were given a face-lift, says Sam Diaz at ZDNet. "I'll give iLife an 85 percent chance of being upgraded and iWork a 75 percent chance."

5. iMac/MacBook touch?

The idea of a multi-touch tablet computer, says says Devin Coldeway at TechCrunch, "has its origins in a patent filing by Apple for a 'convertible' device" plus rumors that 20"-plus touchscreens had been shipped to Apple — reports "which were later denied by the company implicated." A MacBook touch is an intriguing possibility, but "I don't think they'd push such a major change to their lineup just before the holidays — if we do ever see this, I see it happening in the first half of next year."

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