Apple’s Sept. 9 music event: What’s Steve Jobs got up his sleeve?


Philip Elmer-DeWitt is a senior editor at Fortune.

New iPods? Check. With cameras? Very likely. iTunes 9? Why not. Steve Jobs on stage? Who knows. The Beatles on iTunes? Don't count on it -- but don't count it out, either.

Apple's (aapl) invitation-only special event Wednesday could go either way.

It could be a ploy to get the press to publicize some relatively inconsequential improvements in Apple's increasingly long-in-the-tooth iPod line (a product line that once accounted for anywhere from a third to half the company's quarterly revenue and now brings in less than one fifth.)

Or it could signal the confluence of three classic Apple story threads:

  • A new and surprising confection of hardware and software that restores our sense of childlike wonder;
  • The reappearance of Apple's iconic CEO, restored to health by the organ transplant that saved his life;
  • The digital debut -- via iTunes -- of one of the most influential bands in the history of popular music (and a Steve Jobs favorite), nearly 40 years after their break-up.

The timing is propitious.

<!-- more -->The Beatles' Apple Corps has not only settled its lingering legal disputes with Apple Inc., it has scheduled for the same day (9-9-09) the long-awaited release of the digitally remastered Beatles catalog and the much-anticipated video game Rock Band: The Beatles.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs is back at work on the Cupertino campus -- leaving his car parked, once again, in a handicapped space. To be sure, he's been stepping back from the spotlight -- even before his medical leave -- giving other members of Apple's management team a chance to shine. But if he's ever going to appear in public again, this would seem a perfect opportunity.

Finally, it's probably time to do something with the part of the iPod line that isn't morphing into an iPhone. Either trim it -- as Silicon Alley's Dan Frommer suggests -- or take it in a new direction. Some megapixel eyes to go with those white ear buds would be a good start, last-minute reports of a technical hiccup notwithstanding.

Has Apple piqued your interest yet? Tune in Wednesday at 10 a.m. Pacific (1 p.m. Eastern). When we know something, you will too.

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