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Apple notebook lite en route

A lightweight Apple notebook computer codeveloped with IBM for Japan could reach U.S. shores this summer.

Apple Computer (AAPL) is collaborating with IBM (IBM) on a new lightweight Mac OS notebook code named Comet, Apple officials said today.

The company declined to say if it would sell the product in the United States, but sources within Apple say the notebook will indeed hit the U.S. market this summer in limited quantities. The notebook was originally intended only for the Japanese market.

Apple said that Comet will not be sold under the IBM brand name but the company wouldn't comment on published reports that IBM is considering marketing its very own Mac OS portable in the United States.

The Comet notebook will weigh under four pounds and will be similar in size to a current IBM offering in the Japanese market, the ThinkPad 535, according to sources close to IBM.

Comet will reportedly be configured with a 180- or 200-MHz 603e PowerPC processor and 10.4-inch active matrix screen. The new model will not replace the recently canceled PowerBook Duo series, which offered a docking station with extra expansion ports. Comet will also not work with Duo docking station products, according to sources close to Apple who asked not to be identified.

While Comet will eventually arrive in the United States, Apple stressed that it is being designed specifically for the Japanese market. Apple turned to IBM for design help because of its experience in this region.

"IBM is a recognized innovator in [the Japanese] market," according to an Apple spokesperson, "The product is being designed to meet specific market needs," they added.

Portables are widely used in Japan in place of regular PCs because of a general lack of desk space in Japanese offices.