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Apple fuels Macworld speculation

After disappointing many fans at the July expo, the company promises attendees will be "blown away" at next week's show.

Apple Computer is adding to the speculation swirling around next week's Macworld Expo by promising the show will be better than most.

On Tuesday, the front page of Apple's Web site boasted, "Six days to Macworld San Francisco. Count the days. Count the minutes. Count on being blown away." A day earlier, the site read, "This one is big. Even by our standards," according to Mac enthusiast sites.

While Apple traditionally launches new products at the twice-yearly shows, the company does not typically make such bold claims at the risk of letting its customers down. For example, although Apple did not make any promises for the last Macworld Expo, held in July in New York, many Mac fans were still disappointed that the company unveiled only minor tweaks and speed bumps to the Power Mac and iMac lines.

Speculation for next week's show in San Francisco has centered on whether CEO Steve Jobs might use his keynote speech to introduce a flat-paneled successor to the three-year-old iMac, which analysts say is due for an upgrade. Apple has already placed orders for components that could be used in a desktop computer with an LCD monitor, according to Wall Street brokerage Morgan Stanley.

Such a product has reportedly been under development for some time, but there are indications Apple may finally be ready to release such a device. An Apple representative could not be reached Tuesday, but the company routinely declines to comment on unannounced products.

As another indication that an iMac upgrade is imminent, Apple's online store now lists a seven-day shipping time on all current models. That means the units would not ship prior to Jobs' Macworld presentation.

Long wait times from the online store have often been a harbinger that an updated model is about to be announced. Wait times for iBooks also are listed at seven days, while most PowerMacs and PowerBooks are listed as shipping in three to five days.

Some Mac fans have also expressed hope that Apple might offer additional digital devices, such as the iPod digital music player it began selling in October.

Apple previously moved Jobs' speech up by one day, to Monday, before the show's main floor is opened. Apple also is broadcasting the 9 a.m. PT speech live at its retail stores.