Apple event: Expect iPads, iMacs and maybe a few shockers

Apple store
Adrees Latif | Reuters

While Apple fans and investors shouldn't bet on the same level of headlines coming out of its event on Thursday as it generated at its corporate gathering last month, industry experts said the tech giant still may have a few tricks up its sleeve.

"I wouldn't be surprised for a surprise. It's very much like them, but right now nobody knows for sure what it is," said David Smith, an analyst at Gartner.

Here's a roundup of what industry experts are anticipating as well as some surprises that could be in the works.

New iPads, iMac and more

It's widely anticipated both the iPad Air and the iPad mini will get some updates. And a screenshot in Apple's iOS 8.1 iPad user guide within iBooks appears to confirm that speculation.

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The screenshots show the two new tablets looking very similar to the iPad Air and iPad Mini 2. The images also show the new devices as both featuring the Touch ID function. And according to the screenshot the images will be called the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3.

"We are expecting a refresh to the iPad Air and the iPad mini. We think the devices could be thinner with a new processor," Kulbinder Garcha, a Credit Suisse analyst, said on "Squawk on the Street" Tuesday. He added that the new devices likely will incorporate Touch ID, the fingerprint scanner, and probably incorporate mobile payment system Apple Pay.

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Any improvements to the iPads will be incremental, though, said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester. And the company may even hold off until next year to introduce Apple Pay on the tablets.

It's also widely speculated the company might show off a new iMac. The invitation to the event featured the vague phrase, "It's been a long time," and the desktop computer is due for some updates.

"If they are sticking with the headline of the invitation, then it might suggest they could be doing something on the screen side in a different way. Are they going to do a touch enabled iMac? Are they reinventing the desktop?" said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of Kantar Worldpanel.

According to some reports and industry analysts, it's more likely the company will just be introducing retina display into the iMac and possibly new colors.

The company will also likely share the official launch date for Apple Pay, which is the company's new NFC-enabled mobile payment system, Gillett said.

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Apple introduced Apple Pay at its September event when it also revealed its new iPhone 6 models and the Apple Watch. No specific roll out date for the system was given, only that it would go live sometime before the end of October.

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According to a report from 9to5Mac the Apple already is training its employees on how to use Apple Pay and a report from MacRumors cites an internal Walgreens document as suggesting Oct. 18 as the date when the payments system will go live in stores.

The tech giant will also likely give a release date for OS X Yosemite and it may even be the same day as the event. And now that iOS8 is live, the company may also show off features such as Continuity and Handoff that are enabled by the new operating systems.

Possible shockers

There's been speculation that Apple might reveal a 12-inch iPad, but now it's looking less clear that will happen at Thursday's event, said Alex Gauna, a wireless technology analyst for JMP Securities.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported the company had delayed its plans to manufacture the larger device because suppliers are already struggling to meet the demands of the new iPhones.

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However, if there is news of a larger iPad, it might shed more light on Apple's enterprise aspirations, Milanesi said.

A larger iPad that costs less than a Macbook with some sort of convertible feature enabling it to double as a laptop might help Apple capture more of the enterprise market, she said.

"Even if it is only marginally lower than the Mac it could open up more opportunities for Apple," Milanesi said.

"Most of the enterprise is embedded in Microsoft's PC ecosystem but because IT managers think of tablets as a new product category instead of trying to displace Microsoft in the PC world, Apple has a better chance of being everywhere with the iPad than with the Mac."

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Another possible surprise would be an update to Apple TV. The streaming device hasn't had a significant hardware update since 2012. And while it's unlikely that a hardware update will come Thursday, there's the possibility Apple could announce an OS enhancement for Apple TV. Specifically, the company could announce how the device might be tied to HomeKit, which is Apple's connected home platform that enables iOS 8 devices to control certain household accessories approved by Apple.

According to an Apple Insider report, iOS 8.1 beta code suggests HomeKit will be enabled on the Apple TV. This may mean the Apple TV could play a central role in serving as the hub for Apple's connected home push.

Yet, whether or not Apple says anything about Apple TV tomorrow, it's something to keep on the radar.

"Apple TV would be a great surprise, but there aren't any signs that it's likely," Smith said. "But it's certainly something to watch for the future."