In addition to allowing Apple to rally programmers around the new desktop operating system, the conference offers the Mac maker the opportunity to announce a new version of OS X for servers.
When Apple launched Mac OS X in March, Apple CEO Steve Jobs promised that an updated server version of OS X would ship by the end of June. Given Apple's penchant for launching new products at company-sponsored events, an announcement at the developer conference appears possible.
In addition, Apple's online store has stopped selling computers with the older version of Mac OS X Server and promises that machines with Mac OS X Server are "coming soon."
The first version of Mac OS X Server was released in January 1999, offering some of the same technology used in the consumer version of Mac OS X but without the snazzy Aqua interface or compatibility with existing Mac applications.
Faster Power Macs also have been talked about for some time. However, analysts say July's Macworld Expo in New York is a more likely place for them to be introduced.
"I haven't seen any massive changes in inventory that would suggest" new products, Guernsey Research analyst Chris LeTocq said. "I think they are probably waiting for Macworld. They have just done the iBook launch."
Apple expects thousands of developers to converge in San Jose, Calif., on Monday as Jobs gets things rolling with a keynote speech billed as a "fireside chat" with developers.
Another key question is whether Apple will be able to draw developers beyond its traditional base to the weeklong gathering.
"The key thing...to look for will be the number of Unix developers at the conference to see if the Mac platform is getting more interest from the Unix guys," said Andrew Scott, an analyst at Needham.
Mac OS X was also a big focus at last year's conference, where Apple revised its timetable for the new operating system and pushed back the final version to this year.