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Apple's "Rock" event expected to unveil new iPods

BOSTON (Reuters) - Apple Inc is expected to unveil new iPod music players -- and possibly price cuts -- at a media event next Tuesday but may not launch a long-awaited update to its MacBook laptop computers until a later date.

Employees wave to people at the first direct-sale Apple Store in China at Sanlitun district of Beijing July 19, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Apple, which also makes iPhone mobile devices, e-mailed reporters an invitation to a September 9 event entitled “Let’s Rock,” which has an image of a man jumping in the air while listening to an iPod, with the words “playing soon.”

No further details were available from the company, which often sends provocative invitations to events that end up being product launches. Creating an allure around its brand has only helped drive Apple’s market capitalization above Google Inc, despite fears about the weak U.S. economy, which is slowing consumer purchases.

“It’s got to be new iPods. That’s 100 percent certain,” Needham & Co analyst Charles Wolf said. “The only question I cannot answer is whether they will also do new MacBooks.”

Apple shares fell $3.34, or 2 percent, to $166.19 on Tuesday.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andrew Hargreaves said the stock fall was likely due to bearish broad sentiment, rather than any disappointment related to the invitation. However, he expects any changes to the iPod to be incremental.

“I’m not expecting anything revolutionary,” he said.

Apple’s iPod line needs to be refreshed and the price of its iPod Touch models need to be cut because they have a higher starting price than its iPhone, which includes a mobile phone and other features not included in the device, said American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu.

The Internet-ready iPod touch starts at $299 in the United States, compared with $199 for the iPhone.

“Pricing needs to be adjusted downward toward market conditions. We are in a tougher economy. That’s what makes most sense,” Wu said.

Analysts said they still expect Cupertino, California-based Apple to refresh its MacBook notebook PCs soon.

Both Wolf and Hargreaves expect new MacBooks to be announced in the coming weeks, if not on Tuesday.

In July, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said in a statement the company was working on several new products to launch in the coming months, but executives declined to give details.

Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando, Editing by Derek Caney and Braden Reddall