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AOpen box inspired by Mac Mini

It might look like an Apple machine, but this new desktop has Intel inside. Photos: New Mini knock-off

It might look like a Mac Mini, but this one has Intel inside.

Taiwanese computer maker AOpen is scheduled to release two versions of its Pandora desktop just in time for the holiday shopping season, the company said Thursday. The company said Apple Computer's Mac Mini inspired its latest desktop PC. Pandora is one of several 2-inch-tall computers being sold as home entertainment PCs.

AOpen Pandora's

A Linux-based version of the mini tower is expected to retail for $399, while the Windows XP-based box will go for $499, the company said. Both are expected to be sold in the United States through an AOpen reseller.

The squarish metallic box, part of AOpen's XC Cube product line, is based on a prototype of the miniature desktop computer shown at the Computex trade show in May.

The Pandora device has a slot-load CD drive and a power button in the front, along with three USB ports, a keyboard hookup and a serial port in the back. The computer also has internal wireless networking connectors.

The Pandora's motherboards are based on Intel's latest Pentium D processors with 945G and 945P chipsets.

Although mini PCs have primarily caught on at business call centers and among enthusiasts who build their own machines, buyers have opened their wallets for small desktops from companies such as Shuttle Computer, which has an upcoming P2600 dual-core AMD Athlon box. sells its Pentium 4-powered LPC-401X for $1,095.

Big-name PC makers such as HP have so far had little success with small desktops such as the e-PC, which sold in 2000 for $659, but Apple is creating enough buzz with its $499 box that it's starting to spark new interest among consumers.

The Mac Mini is a budget version of the Macintosh that debuted in January. The product, which does not come with a keyboard, mouse or monitor, was hailed at the time as the company's big foray into mass market desktop computers after focusing exclusively on luxury goods.

Almost immediately, Mac Mini knock-offs started appearing around the world, including a concept PC revealed by Intel at its Intel Developers Forum back in March.