Though Apple is absent from this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, it is still the target of a great deal of speculation. Apple is prohibiting retail employees from going on vacation for three weeks beginning in late January and ending during mid-February. Apple is planning something big, and it is coming soon.

Why would Apple tell their employees that they are not allowed to take a break? The likely reason is a big product launch. With rumors swirling about the iPad 2 and CDMA iPhone, it’s anybody’s guess as to what it will be.

The timing of a large-scale launch makes perfect sense. Later this month, Apple will be holding a conference call with investors to discuss the financial results of their first fiscal quarter. It would be the perfect opportunity to build up their stock if they report that holiday sales are expected to be spectacular and they have new gadgets slated for launch.

It is also completely logical for Apple to launch a major product at this time from a staffing standpoint, as they have a surplus of employees leftover from the holiday season.  It is a tad unusual for them to be kept for so long after the holiday season, marking another indication that something major it imminent.

Apple executives know that they are falling behind, and all of the hype around other devices being shown off at CES is sure to prompt a response. What do you think it will be? Will Apple be releasing the CDMA iPhone, iPad 2, both, or nothing at all? Let us know in the comments below.