Just hours ahead of the official announcement of the iPad 3 (or 2S or HD), Apple has apparently added a new top-level category in the App Store, hinting at a possible new venture that may be introduced along with the new iPad at tomorrow’s Apple event. The new category is called Catalogs.

Although clicking on the newly created category leads to an empty page at the moment, presumably it will contain, at the very least, apps that essentially function as retail catalogs. This sort of app is, of course, not at all a new thing in the App Store. A bunch of catalog apps have been available in the App Store under the Lifestyle category, but most of them seemed to have already been reassigned to the new Catalogs category. This should automatically list them under Catalogs, but, as mentioned and as seen in the screenshot below, the category listing itself currently draws a blank page. One of the apps that has been given the Catalogs treatment is the top-rated Catalog Spree, which serves as a window shopping app for hundreds of popular brands. In fact, it was Joaquin Ruiz, the CEO of Catalog Spree, who first noticed the new category.

The new, and currently empty, Catalogs category.

With this discreet move, Apple may just be doing some housekeeping in the App Store in terms of separating the myriad of e-catalogs from the other, more lifestyle-related types of apps in the Lifestyle category. But it’s also probable that, coinciding with the launch of the new high-resolution iPad, another major step in e-commerce will be announced by Apple. Perhaps Apple is about to do to retail catalogs what it has done to books, that is, provide a robust and convenient framework for both retailers and consumers with Apple itself getting its share as the indispensable go-between. Considering that the business of retail catalogs is nothing if not a potentially lucrative space, it’s not surprising for Apple, which has time and again proven its marketing savvy, to delve deeper into it.

Do you think that this really has something to do with tomorrow’s big event in San Francisco? Could the timing of this small change actually mean something big?

(via TechCrunch)