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Apple investigating possible iMac look-alike

The PC maker is debating whether a computer from a company Down Under is an iMac look-alike.

Apple is debating whether a computer from a company Down Under is an iMac look-alike.

Australian company FishPC is advertising a translucent PC on its Web site that looks very similar to Apple's trendy iMac. But while the iMac is an all-in-one PC, FishPC's computer apparently is not.

"I'm not a legal expert, so I'm not sure if there are copyright or trademark infringements involved," Apple representative Alec Rosen said on Friday. "But it looks pretty darn close to an iMac."

Timothy Sabre, general manager of FishPC, said in an email exchange yesterday that his product is not an iMac knockoff.

"FishPC was launched to give PC users a choice. In no way are we copying or trying to copy other machines," he said. "If you look closer at the system, the CPU looks like a fish standing on its tail, hence the name FishPC. The system comes as separate components and not an all-in-one unit. What also makes the system very different is the CPU--it stands under 30 cm high and has a front-loading CD-ROM system."

The system appears to be based on Advanced Micro Devices' EasyNow PC design, which features systems with AMD K6-2 or K6-III processors, five USB ports and a translucent case. AMD licenses the EasyNow design to PC makers.

AMD executives could not be reached for comment because of the Easter holiday. But the EasyNow Web site indicates the program's PCs shed legacy ports and connectors, such as serial and parallel, for USB. EasyNow PCs do not come as all-in-one units, although the use of translucent colors and the USB mimic the iMac.

Apple only learned about FishPC and its product Friday afternoon but plans to seriously evaluate both. "We certainly will take a close look at the company and see what the deal is here and whether it is infringing on our patents or trademarks," Rosen said Friday.

According to the Australian Network Centre's Whois database, FishPC is a division of Technology Design Services, based in Sydney. The FishPC Web site states that the company was formed this year.

Apple has aggressively pursued other PC manufacturers selling all-in-one systems built around a 15-inch monitor and available in translucent colors. In March, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker settled lawsuits with Daewoo and Emachines for iMac knockoffs. Apple had alleged the Emachines' eOne and Daewoo subsidiary Future Power's E-Power copied the iMac. Future Power later vowed to rerelease the E-Power without a translucent case.

FishPC claims its system "changes all the rules. It's a statement. It's hip. It's groovy." The translucent PC is available in five colors--purple, blue, red, navy and orange. It contains a 450-MHz processor, 64MB of RAM, 8.4-GB hard drive, 56K modem, network card, speakers, USB support, floppy drive, StarOffice software and Windows 98. The purple, blue and orange colors are strikingly similar to the grape, blueberry and tangerine colors--or flavors--of Apple's iMac.

The iMac has been an immensely popular and successful consumer desktop for Apple and is credited with sparking the company's recovery. On Wednesday, Apple revealed it had beat analysts' estimates for its fiscal 2000 second-quarter earnings by 7 cents a share.

Apple chief financial officer Fred Anderson said in a conference call following the earnings announcement that the iMac continues to sell well "and attract new customers to the Mac platform." He estimated that 45 percent of iMac buyers were new to the Mac operating system.