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Intel device not far from Apple tree

The chipmaker and a Korean company are touting new entertainment devices such as one called "Aztec," borrowing heavily from the iMac.

PALM SPRINGS, California--Intel is showing off a new home entertainment device at the Intel Developer Forum here.

The chip giant and a Korean manufacturer are touting new, stylized computers for the future that borrow heavily from the iMac design introduced by Apple Computer earlier this year: Both are modular, and both are blue.

At the forum, CEO Craig Barrett showed off a prototype of the type of a home computer/information appliance that should start to appear in 2001.

The "Aztec"--as Intel calls the machine--is one of a series of hardware prototypes from the company to make computing both easier and more decorative.

"The question is, how do we get the PC to move forward," said Jory Radke, a member of the Intel Desktop Architecture labs.

Intel worked with Ziba Design in coming up with the prototypes.

The "Tetris" for instance, resembles a mini-tower that is slightly twisted to resemble a double helix. The "Castia," meanwhile, resembles a clamshell, while the "Beta" looks like a flower vase from an old lady's house.

Along with style, the computers are easier to use. The Aztec, for example, comes with two lights: a yellow light, to indicated that the machine is in sleep mode, and a green light to indicate active duty.

The Aztec is said to be "a monument to the gods of power and speed," according to the placard next to the computer.

The Aztec, shaped like a Mayan pyramid, featured a 500-MHz Katmai processor--a processor slated to come out next year--128MB of memory, four USB (universal serial bus) ports, and two 1394 ports. The latter connection technology is targeted at data-intensive devices such as digital camcorders, while USB is aimed at more standard peripheral devices such as keyboards and scanners.

Rather than come to a point like other pyramids, however, the top was blunted by a DVD player. Although technologically intriguing, one of the key features of the machine was its blue color. All four sleek sides of the machine were made from translucent blue plastic.

Customers, Barrett said, are looking for "different form factors and absolute simplicity of design."

On the other side of the world, Korean manufacturer Trigem has created a joint venture with a Korean display manufacturer that is working on an iMac knock-off, according to sources. The new venture, called E-Machines, has already hired an industrial designer to develop a look-alike to the iMac.

But, instead of a PowerPC processor, the machine will use a 333-MHz Celeron, said Ashok Kumar, semiconductor analyst with Piper Jaffray.

"This is going to cause significant price pain," he added.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.