SAN FRANCISCO - Apple gadget lovers hungered for the "next big thing" on Thursday after the iconic company fired off invites to a mystery unveiling on Sept. 9.
Fueling rampant speculation regarding what the company has in store was the fact that the event will be held in the same performing arts centre in Silicon Valley where late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh computer in 1984.
Flint Center for the Performing Arts on a college campus near Apple's headquarters in the California city of Cupertino has greater seating capacity than venues the company has traditionally used for media events.
Images of the centre posted online showed that a construction project seemingly related to the Apple event was taking shape behind white walls as tall as the building.
A security team guarded the scene.
"Clearly, putting the event in a larger venue and erecting some mysterious building sends cues it is something dramatic and important," Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said of Apple's preparations.
"There is symbolism in that it is the place where the original Mac was introduced."
Reading tea leaves
Apple has remained tight-lipped about what is in store at the event, opting instead to let anticipation, speculation and excitement focus attention on the iPhone, iPad, iPod and Macintosh maker.
"We are all trying to read the tea leaves," Gillett said.
"But, September is an excellent time to introduce the iPhone, as well as any new wearable gadget." The famously secretive company offered scant clues in emailed invites that showed the Sept. 9 date in large numbers over the words: "Wish we could say more." Rumours about Apple's plans have been swirling for months, with many observers convinced a new-generation iPhone with a larger screen is on the horizon.
Gartner analyst Van Baker was certain that Apple will unveil an iPhone 6 with a screen increased to 4.7 inches, and that odds were strong for a 5.5-inch version of the smartphone.
Apple typically updates its product cycle in the second half of the year, getting a lift from holiday sales.
Apple is fine-tuning a new operating system that will allow for mobile payments and includes a health platform, which could mesh nicely with an "iWatch" for tracking activity, sleep, pulse and more.
The system, iOS8, is expected to be in the new iPhones.
Last year, it unveiled the iPhone 5S and the lower-priced iPhone 5C in September, getting record sales at the launch.
Technology news website Re/code on Wednesday fueled flames of speculation with a report that Apple will finally embark on a foray into wearable computing.
The tech giant is expected to merge style and innovation, along with sensors and computing power, in a wrist-worn device that links wirelessly to iPhones or iPads.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook has publicly stated he thinks wearable computing makes more sense on the wrist than it does in eyewear such as Google Glass.
Analyst Baker was sceptical of 'iWatch' rumours based on an absence of evidence in Apple's supply chain to suggest such a product is ready for market.
Speculation has repeatedly surfaced in recent years that the Apple TV box for streaming online content is being overhauled to play into the power of digital films, music and more at the iTunes store.
Industry observers have been hoping the company will come out with its "next big thing," and shake up another product category the way it rocked markets with iPhones and iPads.