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Apple fans abuzz over new iMac

Company stays mum as faithful mull designs, including one with the guts behind a screen similar to Apple's current flat-panel displays.

With Apple Computer's next iMac expected to be unveiled as soon as next week, Mac fan sites are buzzing with speculation over the design.

Photos supposedly taken in a Paris airport elevator hit the Web on Thursday, fueling rumors that the new machine will be similar to Apple's

The pictures showed up about two weeks after Think Secret posted information claiming to describe two new iMac models, one with a 17-inch display and a 1.6GHz G5 processor and another with a 20-inch display and a 1.8GHz G5 processor. The site claims the models will be priced between $1,300 and $2,200 and encased in an all-in-one housing with the motherboard located behind the display.

AppleInsider has similar details and describes the design as a "pizza box" case.

Leading up to the trade show in Paris, set for the end of the month, enthusiast sites have been busy posting specifications and speculating over what they think will be included with the new iMac, which many expect will be unveiled at the show. Many sites mention new designs with liquid-crystal displays and faster processors.

CNET readers have also offered their two cents about what they feel should be included in the next computer from Apple and are expecting a more powerful G5 processor, a large flat-panel screen and a casing of brushed aluminum.

The attention is typical for new Apple products, as the company seems to have a hypnotic hold on its loyal fans. It also helps that Apple has a track record of producing hip products and has established itself as the arbiter of technology chic.

When Apple unveiled its last iMac update more than two-and-a-half years ago, Time magazine raved in a that the design was "Flat-Out Cool!"

This track record has led enthusiast sites to expect a lot of the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. Many of the sites expect a similar roster of features. While notoriously tight-lipped about unannounced products, the company has said its new generation of iMacs will come with G5 processors. Given the shortage of chips from Apple's main supplier, IBM, some have questioned how widely available the new computers will be.

Still, not everyone has been impressed by the rumored tablet direction of the new iMac. Gadget enthusiast site Gizmodo that the company will surprise everyone with a cheap, monitorless G5 in a simple box rather than a fancy new all-in-one.

"In my heart of hearts I wish that the new iMac were just a plain white box, sans monitor, that could bring the power of G5 into homes and schools for $1,000 a pop," the site opined in a posting last week. "I know this isn't going to happen, but I can dream."

Apple acknowledged in July that it was working on a new iMac to replace the current version. The company had hoped to have the computer on the market by then, but was hindered by supply shortages. As a result, the company found itself without sufficient stock of the old iMac and a replacement still months away. Apple pledged that the new version would arrive by September.

Were Apple to go with a machine whose components sit on the back of a flat-panel monitor, the company would be embracing a concept it rejected the last time around. When it was first designing the flat-panel iMac, designers at Apple considered a machine that would have the system elements on the back of the display.

However, Jobs and Apple passed on the idea, wanting to have the display and system elements separate for the sake of design. But the company has been known to downplay ideas before, only to revisit them when it felt the timing was right.

Both Gateway and IBM have released all-in-one flat-panel computers with the computing guts in the back of the screen.