Apple 09/09/09: Steve Jobs Returns? New iPods? Apple Tablet?

And while Apple is expected to hit the ground running at its Sept. 9, 2009 -- 09/09/09 -- event in Yorba Buena, Calif., the rumor mill isn't so much focused on the products Apple may or may not release but more on who will take the stage to pull the curtain off them. Basically, the big question is: Will Steve Jobs make his first stage appearance on Sept. 9 since returning from sick leave?

Piper Jaffray senior research analyst and Apple watcher Gene Munster speculated that Jobs will take the stage at the event. Jobs' return to the stage, Munster wrote in a research note, will overshadow any products Apple plans to reveal.

"We believe investors will view the new products as a non-event, as iPod growth slows and the segment becomes less of an investable theme," Munster said in a note to investors, according to AppleInsider. "However, we also believe Steve Jobs will be present at the event, a first since his health-related leave of absence, which would likely be a slight positive for shares of AAPL and the first public confirmation of Jobs' health since his return to the company."

Munster added that he doesn't think Apple's long-rumored tablet computer will be mentioned on Sept. 9. Munster's prediction jibes with other analyst theories that there will be no Apple tablet at the Sept. 9 event and that it is most likely Apple will release its tablet, or two Apple tablets, depending on which industry analysts you believe, early next year.

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"While we continue to believe that Apple is currently developing a new operating system and enclosure for a tablet," Munster wrote, according to AppleInsider, "we do not believe it is ready to go to market yet. Apple will likely release the tablet in early (calendar year) 2010."

Munster's prediction of Steve Jobs returning to the stage comes amid a plethora of product rumors around what Apple has up its sleeve.

Apple is expected to unveil several new products, including new iPod Touch and Nano models that feature video recording and a camera, respectively; a new version of Apple iTunes that ties in social networking functions; and a new Apple TV model that ties into an iTunes subscription model.

The music-centric event on Sept. 9 will be Apple's last big product hurrah of the year and will showcase the new iPods for the holiday season. It is also an attempt from Apple to kick-start iPod sales, which have gone stagnant. Since it launched in 2001, Apple has sold nearly 200 million iPods globally and essentially redefined the portable music market. Lately, however, iPod sales have taken a hit. In its third-quarter earnings call in July, Apple reported selling 10.2 million iPods in the quarter, down 7 percent from the same quarter one year before.