More than new iPad could be on tap at Apple event

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If Apple ever wants to satisfy the demands of tech pundits (which on Tim Cook’s to-do list falls somewhere below “remember to darn socks”), one of its much-anticipated press events would feature nothing more than a senior company executive striding onto the stage, announcing “We’ve updated everything,” and dropping the mic before strolling off to the wings.

After all, any time Apple announces a media event, it's never long before someone somewhere on the Internet suggests that this will finally be the day that Apple updates some long-forgotten piece of hardware and software. Soon, everyone’s chiming in with their own suggestions, predictions, and ultimatums on what Apple would, could, and should announce. And before you know it, you’ve got rumors of Apple announcing everything from a new iPad to the revival of iCards at an event with a runtime that rivals The Sorrow and the Pity.

But that shouldn’t stop us from dreaming a little about what might be in store when Apple executives take the stage Tuesday for the company’s planned press event.

Find out what Apple will announce Tuesday with Macworld’s Live Blog of the Apple event

When it issued invitations last week, Apple promised that it “had a little more to show you.” Unless this is all a ruse by Apple to make a lot of people look foolish (which is probably much higher on Tim Cook’s to-do list than darning his socks), that almost certainly means a more compact version of the iPad. But does that guarantee the rumored iPad mini is the only thing on Apple’s agenda?

Maybe, maybe not. But before we go adding to Apple’s list of Tuesday talking points, we should consider how long it’s been since the company updated certain products and what new versions could add to the mix.

Apple last updated the iMac in May 2011.

iMac: It’s been a good, long while since Apple’s all-in-one desktop saw an update: The current iMac models were first unveiled in May 2011 when they added Thunderbolt connectivity and improved processors. (The iMac’s current design has been around even longer, when the 2007 revamp introduced the world to the desktop’s aluminum-and-glass look.) That’s a roundabout way of saying an update for the iMac may be long overdue, whether it’s adding more solid-state drive storage, introducing USB 3.0 ports, or incorporating Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors—or some combination of all three.

Mac mini: Like the iMac, the Mac mini has been waiting a while for some Apple attention: It last saw an update in July 2011 when Apple added a Thunderbolt port and took out an optical drive. As with the iMac, USB 3.0 ports and Ivy Bridge processors seem like the most logical changes to be made, should Apple have an update waiting in the wings.

Mac Pro: Look, if Apple is not even willing to devote stage time to talk up the minor Mac Pro update unveiled at June’s Worldwide Developers Conference—held before an audience that’s likely to be more receptive to a Mac Pro update than a roomful of gadget-focused tech reporters—the chances of Apple’s high-end desktop machine getting any attention on Tuesday seems remote. Besides, Tim Cook has already suggested the next Mac Pro overhaul is slated for next year. Cross this one off your bingo card.

Laptops: Yes, it’s only been a few months since Apple rolled out MacBook Air updates as well as a Retina display-equipped MacBook Pro. But don’t overlook the importance that laptops play in the company’s Mac business: Notebooks accounted for three-fourths of the Macs Apple sold in its most recent quarter. If Apple wants to keep striking the laptop iron while it’s hot, the company could conceivably come out with another new portable—perhaps expanding its Retina display offerings beyond just the 15-inch model by coming out with a 13-inch version.

A new iPhone: Oh, I see you just managed to free yourself from the ice cave you’ve been frozen in that caused you to miss last month’s iPhone 5 release. Well, that happened. And that means Apple’s done on the phone front until sometime in 2013.

Which has happened more frequently since 2009: A major iWork update or an Apple appearance at Macworld Expo? (This is a trick question.)

iWork: The last time Apple’s productivity suite saw a major overhaul, the company was still attending Macworld Expos. Still, it’d be unfair to say that iWork has gone unchanged since the opening week of 2009. Apple released mobile versions of Keynote, Numbers, and Pages in recent years and added Documents in the Cloud support as recently as July. Still, iWork users would love to see improved collaboration capabilities in a refreshed version of the productivity suite, whether it’s real-time collaboration on files or improved sharing through iCloud. And a nice new number on the box might give the impression that iWork is still very much on Apple’s radar.

iLife: Apple’s collection of creative apps for consumers isn’t as long in the tooth as iWork: iLife last saw a major update two years ago. (That doesn’t count the mobile versions of iPhoto, Garageband, and iMovie that have arrived for iOS devices in the intervening years.) If Apple sticks to the every-couple-of-years update cycle, there’s probably a few features it could add to the likes of iPhoto, Garageband, and iMovie. As for iDVD and iWeb apps, if you’re awaiting new versions of those two long-neglected offerings, you’re probably used to life’s crushing disappointments by now.

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