Apple's annual Back to School promotion begins June 16 and runs until September 20. There are a few things that are different with this year's promotion compared to years past. First, the promotion is starting about two weeks, on average, later than in earlier years. Secondly -- and most notably -- this year's promotion will not include a free iPod with any Mac purchased. Instead, buyers will receive a $100 gift card that is good in the Mac App Store, iTunes Store, App Store or the iBookstore.
MacRumors offers photographic proof of this year's promotion and its changes. Many may be dismayed over the lack of a free iPod, but it's likely Apple feels that with the success of the iPod touch, iPhone and Macs, it doesn't need to offer such an incentive to get people to buy this year. A $100 gift card for use in the Mac App Store and other online stores could actually be more helpful to students and parents. There are several companies selling textbooks in the iBookstore, and there are hundreds of Mac apps that could be useful in a school setting (like the iWork suite).
The fact that no free iPods will be offered during this year's promo also leaves the launch of the next iPods and iPhones totally up in the air. It used to be expected that Apple wouldn't launch new iPods before the Back to School promotion ended, as it was a way for the company to clear out inventory. Now, however, the Back to School promotion is not tied to any specific timetable.