First let me say that I know no more than you do about Canon's plans. If I did, I couldn't write this. I do sometimes get advanced information about upcoming events, but once I get that information I'm ethically obliged not to pass it along. At this time I know of no official Canon notifications of new product releases or upcoming briefings on new products.
....However, those of you who read the rumor sites will have noticed an upturn in the number of predictions and unsubstantiated rumors they are spreading and there are reasons to suspect that Canon will be releasing some new products over the next few months.
Canon, in their first quarter report this year said the following.
I think this can be taken as a strong indication that Canon will soon be releasing a compact mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, or a MILC as they are sometimes known. Something along the lines of the Olympus PEN series. Given the G1X that Canon introduced earlier this year, I think the smart money might be on a camera that uses the same 14.3 MP sensor, but an APS-C sensor certainly cannot be ruled out. The G1X sensor measures 18.7mm x 14mm. That makes it slightly smaller than the APS-C sensors found in Canon DSLRs (which is 22.3mm x 14.9 mm), but larger than the 4/3 sensors used by Olympus in their DSLRs and MILCs (13mm x 17mm). This would certainly fit the statement of a compact camera with "image qualities that approach(es) SLR cameras", as well as accomplishing the goal of "...aiming to boost sales by 17% to 22 million units...".
The introduction of a new line of lenses optimized for the new camera(s) obviously would "increase sales of interchangeable lenses" and the lenses would be smaller than EF and EF-S lenses because they would have a much shorter back focus distance. Lenses designed for a G1X sized sensor could also be slightly smaller than those designed for an APS-C sensor if Canon chose to go that way.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Canon following the Nikon example of launching two compact interchangeable lens cameras (in Nikon's case the J1 and the V1). One fairly simple with an LCD screen used as the viewfinder like a P&S and one more advanced with a built in electronic viewfinder.
Besides Canon's statement, another reason to expect a camera (system) like this is that everybody else has one (Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Olympus) and it's a growing market segment, so Canon are not going to be left out of it, even if they come into the game a little late!
I'd expect an adapter to be available so that EF and EF-S series lenses could be used with full aperture control and autofocus. As a bonus, with a short backfocus distance such a camera, via a suitable adapter, could use just about any SLR lens ever made and still retain infinity focus. You could even mount Canon FD lenses on it, as well as Konica, Minolta, Olympus, Canon, Pentax and so on. I wouldn't look to Canon to make such adapters, but given a few months (or even a few weeks) I'm certain they would start to appear on eBay from the Chinese lens accessory manufacturers.
I hope that Canon use phase detection AF sensors built into the imaging sensor as Nikon did if they introduce such a camera. The G1-X uses contrast detection AF and performance is somewhat sluggish.
When? I don't know. If I knew I couldn't tell you or even speculate. My guess is sooner rather than later. Soonest would be June, latest would be September. That's the typical timeframe for mid-year product introduction. Getting products out there before the summer holiday season gets into full swing gives increased sales potential, especially consumer oriented products.
Well, the high end is covered with the 5D MkIII and the 1D-X (which is just starting to ship), so any new DSLRs would be APS-C. There are three candidates for updates:
By DSLR standards the EOS 7D is pretty old (almost 3 years). However it's still a cutting edge camera and possibly still the best APS-C DSLR out there. However just because it's very good doesn't mean that Canon won't update it. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 7D MkII appear sometime over the summer. It's hard to see exactly what the updates would be, or what the 7D really needs that it doesn't have, but I'm sure Canon could think of something. Perhaps a new sensor with lower noise, a modest increase in the pixel count, a faster (Digic 5) processor(or two), maybe an AF tweak and some video enhancements.
The 60D is also pretty good, but has been around for 2 years now. An update could include some of the features now found on the 7D, especially if the 7D itself is updated.
The T3i is a bit new for a facelift, but it's not unknown for an 18 month product cycle to be used. Of course on that basis the T2i and the T1i are also overdue for updates. One of them will get one, I'm pretty sure. Maybe more than one?
Well, the EF 200-400/4L IS USM with built in 1.4xTC has to come out at some point. Canon announced it was in development last February (see Canon Press Release) and it's actually been seen in use in the field by photographers testing it for Canon. I suspect the release may have been delayed by Canon trying to get the new 500/4L IS II and 600/4L IS II into the hands of photographers in time for the 2012 Olympics. They wouldn't want to announce yet another lens that they can't actually deliver! It was originally scheduled to ship in 2011, but in late November Canon announced a delay and didn't specify a new release date. Maybe this summer? If you're holding your breath waiting for it, I'm guessing you'd better have at least $10,000 in your wallet though. If it's only $8000 it will be a surprise and a (relative) bargain...
I've also seen talk of a EF 40mm f2.8 pancake lens. It's possible, though I really don't quite see the point. The DLSR bodies are pretty bulky, so even with a small lens they're not going to be pocketable. A pancake lens for a new compact mirrorless body would make a lot of sense though. I presume that if we do see such a compact camera, we'll also see a few lenses to go with it. Probably at least a wide to short telephoto zoom "kit" lens, a fast normal prime and a wideangle prime. I'm pretty sure that Canon will stick with image stabilization in the lenses too. The "focal length multiplier" for the G1X sensor is around 1.85, so a typical kit zoom might be something like 15-60mm (which is what the zoom on the G1X is).
Just to repeat myself, this is all pure speculation, based on things Canon have said recently, things Canon have done in the past and the current state of the camera market. It's not based on any "insider knowledge". If I had such knowledge I wouldn't be in a position to speculate!