But other analysts say that keeping Jobs off-stage could be a mistake.
"He's back and having him not appear would be a different kind of problem," said independent analyst Rob Enderle. "Then the commentary would be: 'Why wasn't he there?'"
However, given reports that Jobs appears especially gaunt, Enderle thinks he might not appear in person.
"I think it likely Apple will do something creative to give Jobs a presence," he said, adding that they could patch him via video conference.
If he's too thin, Enderle said his physical appearance could distract away from the real purpose of the event: new products. And, since sales of mp3 players (as a class, not just Apple products) fell in the third quarter, Enderle said Apple needs this event to "revitalize" interest.
He expects Apple to announce a refresh of the iPods, perhaps some with an added video camera feature. He also said the nano and shuffle versions are likely to get physical changes.
While he said the company could tease the "iPad," like others, he doubts it'll be among the major announcements.
"The idea is to get people to look at these items in the fourth quarter, so people see them as new and exciting," he said.
And with Jobs involved somehow, he added, that task could be easier.
"If he's not there, they won't get the pop on the products," Enderle said. And "they really do need to get people excited about iPods."