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Apple event will focus on iBooks, says analyst

Rumors swirl of January media event with publishing emphasis

Apple will probably highlight changes to iBooks this month, an analyst said, citing his own sources and rumors of an impending event the Cupertino, Calif. company will host.

"It's a media-related event of some sort," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research . "And it looks like it will be something about books and magazines, about iBooks. The fact that it's going to take place in New York City gives that away."

New York, while not the heart of the U.S.'s technology industry, remains the center of publishing in the country.

Several reports have surfaced concerning a possible Apple event in January, including those by AllThingsD , TechCrunch and others. Several of those reports have pinpointed iBooks as a likely focus.

Kerravala sees that as a natural for Apple.

"It's fair to say that their entry into books and magazines hasn't been a success," said Kerravala, referring to Apple's iBooks and that entry's poor performance against the market leader, Amazon.com.

He expects Apple to revamp the iBooks app on its iOS devices, and offer Mac users the ability to read books on those machines, probably using the iCloud service that currently emphasizes music.

"The pervasiveness of iCloud [on Mac OS X and iOS] lets Apple deliver content to any of its devices," said Kerravala.

Apple already has deals with book and magazine publishers, but Kerravala said the company will probably use the event to announce some new arrangements.

One possibility suggested today by multiple media outlets, including Fox News and MacRumors , was an expansion of Apple's efforts in digital textbooks

"Apple needs a better type of front end to iBooks," said Kerravala, to compete more effectively with Amazon. "It's kludgy to say the best about it, so I fully expect that they'll revamp it. Apple needs to step up here. Their community is more likely to have multiple devices than the general public."

Apple has a history of announcing products during the week of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where it does not exhibit -- last year the company touted the iPhone 4 for Verizon during 2011's CES -- but Kerravala was wary about predicting what it might do this year, assuming the talk of a later-in-January iBooks event is accurate.

But he was pretty sure what it wouldn't be.

"There's talk of an Apple-branded TV, but I just don't think that's going to happen," said Kerravala, noting -- as have other analysts -- the slim margins in the television business.

Although he acknowledged that sources have told him Apple has ordered quantities of 32-in. and 37-in. LCD screens, he doesn't believe they're destined to be turned into televisions.

"Sales of [TV] screens at that size are on the decline," Kerravala said. "But if they're looking to refresh the iMac, 32- or 37-in. screens makes some sense."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .

See more articles by Gregg Keizer .

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