Apple will launch a new Intel iBook at a special thirtieth anniversary press event in April, a leading analyst believes.

Needham & Co analyst Charles Wolf told his clients: "At this event, it's highly likely that the company will introduce the new Intel iBook. It's likely the company will introduce the new video iPod. And it's possible, but less likely, that Apple will begin to roll out the first offerings in its digital entertainment delivery initiative."

Wolf recommends investors "Hold" their Apple shares in expectation of further gains on the strength of his predicted product road map for 2006.

Intel iBook 'essential' for schools

During his Macworld Expo San Francisco keynote speech, Apple CEO Steve Jobs mentioned Apple's thirtieth anniversary on April 1, 2006. Wolf sees this as a signal that the company will hold a major event that day, "in the form of a new product event around that date," he wrote.

He believes that releasing an Intel-powered iBook is essential for the company, particularly in the lucrative education market. He points out that the US school-buying season begins in May and that the iBook represents "an increasing fraction" in the market.

"Failure to have an Intel iBook ready for the school-buying season could significantly jeopardise Apple's education sales," he warns.

True video iPod

Wolf also points out that when Apple launched its current video-capable iPod, the company described it as "an iPod that played music but also featured a video-viewing capability", stressing music above multimedia in its description.

He lends weight to Think Secret's predictions for the product, saying: "According to our sources, the screen on the video iPod will occupy the entire front of the current iPod with a touch-activated scroll wheel. Assuming the same form factor as the current iPod, this move will increase the size of the screen three-fold."

As further proof that the time is ripe for such a product to see the light of day, Wolf points to the "rapid increase" in video content the company is releasing through the iTunes Music Store.

"The rapid increase in the iTunes Music Store video offerings is a strong signal that an iPod with a much larger screen is on the way," he concludes.

Recent reports have also claimed that Apple is scaling back manufacturing of the present iPod with video players.

Wolf writes: "One hypothesis is that sales of this model have fallen below Apple's previous expectations for the quarter. An equally plausible hypothesis is that Apple is draining inventories of the iPod from the distribution channel in advance of its introduction of the new model."

Mac mini - the front room server

Wolf also resurrects the pre-Macworld Expo rumours that the Mac mini will be revved-up as a home media server. He calls it a "digital content management and delivery device for the living room".

"Our sources indicate that this product was not finished in time for Macworld," he observes. "Whether it will be ready for the April event is an open question," he adds.