"Apple has something big up its sleeve for next month", reports the FT, as it's been revealed that Apple has rented out the the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco for several days in late January.

According to "people familiar with the plans", the booking covers a Tuesday (Apple's traditional day of choice for product launches) so the 26th January is being furiously marked in Apple-watchers and fans' diaries.

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts was the venue for the iPod launch event in September, but this time round it's expected that Apple will finally unveil its much-rumoured iTablet device.

New iPhone launches aren't expected until later in the year, with recent rumours suggesting a 5-megapixel iPhone due to debut in late June/early July, thanks to another Apple booking, this time at the Moscone Center in San Fran.

The FT quotes long-time Apple commentator Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster saying: "We believe there is a 75% likelihood that Apple will have an event in January and a 50% chance that it will be held to launch the Apple tablet".

The rumour gets more credible with the news from Silicon Valley Insider that Apple has asked certain developers to create versions of their apps that would work on a larger screen.

"They've told select developers that as long as they build their apps to support full screen resolution - rather than a fixed 320x480 - their apps should run just fine", an insider source tells the blog, which predicts an unveiling rather than launch for the January event.

We will keep you posted.