Breakdown of an Apple event: The script to be followed at the iPad launch

While we see product releases every day, there are a few days that stand out from the others. And indeed, there’s nothing bigger than an Apple launch event when it comes to the hype machine cranking up to full speed.

Apple’s big launch event is coming later today, at 18:00 BST to be precise, and we thought that just ahead of the kick-off, our readers might want to know a little bit about the behind the scenes machinations leading up to – and happening during – an Apple event. You’ve probably read a lot about rumours and the event itself here, there, and everywhere, so you want to peek behind the curtain. (We do too, but Tim Cook has rules about those things).

We can't know for sure, but this time around we're guessing that we're getting a fifth-gen iPad that looks much like a mini, a Retina display iPad mini, a launch date for OS X Mavericks, and maybe the same for the don't-call-it-a-trashcan Mac Pro. But the invitation is cryptic enough to make us unsure of exactly what else may show up. Or, for that matter who else may show up, because an Apple event wouldn't be complete without a rock star centre stage.

So as you while away this afternoon impatiently, waiting to see what Apple has in store, here's a look at what has happened, and what’s going to be happening at the big event later today – and then afterwards. And don't forget to tune in to our live coverage at 18:00 to watch the whole thing unfold...

Location

Smaller events are held on the Apple campus in Cupertino at a space that seats about 250 people. Larger ones get the 700-odd seats at the Yerba Buena Centre in downtown San Francisco – that’s where today’s launch is happening. Events that are for developers and fans as well as the press pack them in at the Moscone Centre.

Invite hints

The invites are simple but both the image and the tagline always drop clues about what to expect. For the iPhone 5S, the colourful 5C, and the flat design of iOS7, there were polka dots in the soft hues of iOS 7 and the tagline: "This should brighten everyone's day." The invite for today’s event is one of the most cryptic yet. Rainbow simulacrums of the Apple leaf fall from the sky onto the logo with "We still have a lot to cover" written underneath (see the image above). We can't imagine it's an announcement purely about iPad covers, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Event day

That’s today, as you may have noticed! We’ve been to more than a few Apple events, and the timeline goes like this (with times in BST – of course, over in San Francisco they’re 8 hours behind us, so the event actually begins at 10:00 PDT, with journos queuing from 8:00 PDT):

  • 16:00. Journalists arrive and start lining up.
  • 17:00. Journalists are allowed into a vestibule or entryway. Typically there's coffee and food there. If it's on Apple's campus, the food gets really fancy – think omelette stations and gluten-free muffins. If it isn't, there are coffee carafes, muffins, and fruit.
  • 17:45. They let people in.
  • 18:00 to 18:15. The first 10 to 15 minutes of an event usually recaps Apple’s business successes.
  • 18:15 to 19:30. Typically an hour-plus of talking about new products.
  • 19:30 to 20:30. Journalists are shuffled over to a hands-on room to play with the new products.

One more thing

Steve Jobs liked to pretend he was just about to close out the announcement, only to stop his pacing, grin, and say, "One more thing" before unveiling something like the iPod mini, a MacBook Air, or FaceTime.

iTunes live

Even when there's not one more thing, there's one other thing at the end of the announcement: A musical act. Ozomatli, The Barenaked Ladies, Cake, Foo Fighters, and Elvis Costello have all closed out Apple announcements.

Sale date

A month or so after the announcement, the actual product(s) come out, and you can bet it'll be on a Friday to give people the entire weekend to drop by an Apple Store.

For more on the big iPad launch, check out our list of 9 features we'd like to see in Apple's new iPads.