Apple could be about to announce a major new product update that'll hit the Apple Store within weeks, according to reports.

Apple Insider reports that the company has prohibited leave for junior retail employees in the last week of January and the first two weeks of February.

Sources claim that this kind of blackout is indicative of a major product launch, leading to speculation that Apple could be about to refresh the iPad or MacBook Pro product lines.

The report cites people familiar with Apple's retail operations as saying that many Apple Stores have not cut back on staffing levels after the Christmas period, typically the busiest time of year, also suggesting that a big launch is on the way.

The smart money seems to be on the iPad 2 being the cause of the holiday blackout, with accessory maker Dexim showing off a case that it believes will meet the specification of a second-generation iPad at CES earlier this week.

Another theory is that it will be the Verizon iPhone that will be announced in January. However, this isn't the first time that such a rumour has circulated.