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Once again, it’s time to peer into Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs’ cup and try to read the tea leaves.

Apple, as usual, has said almost nothing about the new products it plans to unveil at an invitation-only affair Wednesday in San Francisco. Playing their part, bloggers and Apple fans have filled the vacuum with “leaks,” rumors and wish-list items that, while often far-fetched, can’t completely be ignored. Sometimes, just sometimes, a bit of truth shines through.

In recent years, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has used its September event to unveil new iPods, which have grown smaller, sleeker and more powerful with each new generation.

This year’s event is along the same lines, if Apple’s e-mail to reporters is any indication.

The invitation looks like an iTunes gift card and features one of Apple’s iconic, iPod-toting silhouettes and the words, “It’s only rock and roll, but we like it,” a reference to a 1970s Rolling Stones song.

That still left room for creative speculation. Detail-starved bloggers took a close look at the image and noted that the headphones jack into the large-ish iPod at the bottom – making it an iPod Touch, not an iPod classic. The observation has added weight to one rumor that Apple could discontinue the classic, the only model left to use a hard drive instead of flash memory.

Of course, other rumors postulate an even bigger hard drive on an updated iPod classic, which already boasts a 120-gigabyte hard drive, far beefier than any other iPod. Still more speculation, this time based on what appear to be photos of new iPod cases, call for built-in digital cameras on Touch and Nano models.

Apple watchers are also looking out for the ninth incarnation of iTunes, the media management software that helps people keep track of their music, videos, podcasts and data and send it to iPods and iPhones.

“Leaked” screen shots of unknown origin and varying quality have cropped up online that indicate iTunes might be melded into social networking sites including Facebook and music-enthusiast network Last.fm. According to the buzz, iTunes 9 may also get better at helping people organize their iPhone and iPod Touch applications, and support Blu-Ray disc playback.

One of the more solid predictions is that Apple will be packaging digital albums with videos, liner notes and album art that could be viewed in iTunes – to help revive consumers’ interest in buying more than just one or two tracks. The Associated Press and other media reported in July that Apple and the four major recording labels were working on launching this package in the fall.

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Tagged: Computing, Business

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