Apple Hosting Mac-Themed Event Oct. 20

Apple will host a "Back to the Mac" event Oct. 20, where it will offer a glimpse of "the next major version of Mac OS X." Apple may also use the event to refresh its Mac line.

Apple has sent media invites to a "Back to the Mac" event at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters Oct. 20, igniting the rampant speculation that accompanies most of the company's announcements. According to the invite, attendees will get a glimpse of "the next major version of Mac OS X."

The invite also includes the partial image of a lion's face, peeking through an apple-shaped cutout in a brushed-aluminum pane. Does that mean Apple's chosen "Lion" as the code name for Mac OS X 10.7? Considering the company's affinity for pairing big-cat names to each successive version of its operating system-most recently Leopard and Snow Leopard-that would come as no surprise.

The blogosphere is already alight with suggestions that Apple could use the event to debut a refreshed line of Macs. The company has largely focused on its mobile products, including the iPhone and iPad, for much of 2010. In any case, Apple will most likely remain tight-lipped about its announcements until the event itself.

Apple's last big event took place Sept. 1, when the company debuted new iPods and a revamped Apple TV along with a number of services, including a social network devoted to music. Around that time, the company also introduced iOS 4.1, with a number of bug fixes, and announced iOS 4.2 for the iPad. Those mobile operating-system updates included a Games Center and wireless printing.

Apple sold 3.47 million Macs during the third fiscal quarter of 2010, a 33 percent increase from the year-ago quarter. However, its sales of desktops and laptops paled in comparison to the 8.4 million iPhones and 9.41 million iPads shipped during that same period. Much of the discussion during Apple's July 20 earnings call focused on the iPhone 4, whose antenna problems attracted a fair bit of controversy over the summer.

Since last year, Apple has made a number of updates to Mac OS X 10.6, also known as Snow Leopard. Those improvements have included security and application tweaks. Some pundits assumed Snow Leopard's August 2009 ship date, and $29 sticker price for Intel-based Macs already running Leopard, was Apple's attempt to steal some thunder from Microsoft's ramp-up to the release of Windows 7.

According to Net Applications, the various editions of Windows hold 91.08 percent of the operating system market, followed by Mac with 5.03 percent. That represents a slight decline from November 2009, when Mac held 5.12 percent of the market.