eMachines' iMac-like PC ships this week

CEO Dukker says his eOne is an original -- and a bargain at $399 after rebates.

eMachines Inc. is getting ready to debut an all-in-one transparent blue computer at Circuit City stores this week.

While the eOne appears to copy Apple Computer Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) famous iMac design down to the transparent blue color, eMachines officials said the system was designed independently of Apple.

While the Japanese computer is sold by Japan-based Sotec Co. Ltd., the computer's name and the use of the eMachines logo hints that the actual maker is the low-cost PC maker.

"The chassis design was developed for eMachines under contract to a Japanese industrial firm. It's a different shape, a different color. The only commonality they have is translucency," said eMachines CEO Stephen Dukker. "They are not the same computer. The industrial designs are completely different, and the insides are definitely different."

Different innards
That part is true. The eOne is based around a 433MHz Celeron processor and has 64MB of memory, a 6.4GB hard drive, a 24x CD-ROM drive, and a floppy drive. A matching "cool blue" translucent Internet keyboard and "wheel" mouse are included.

The system also includes a 10Base-T Ethernet controller for high-speed networking, and a Home Phone Networking Architecture (HPNA) networking controller, which uses household wiring to network multiple PCs. The system also features Intel's AnyPoint software, which lets multiple PCs share Internet access, printers, files, or participate in multiple-player games.

"Our sense was that this would be a very popular machine for teenagers and college students," Dukker said. "We had to recognize that gaming will be an important usage and (it will be used) in small rooms with limited space. It would be the hub of the entertainment center, and the horsepower would be necessary."

eMachines has priced the system at $799, but users who sign up for a three-year contract with America Online Inc.'s (NYSE: AOL) CompuServe service will get a $400 rebate.

eMachines released the eOne in Japan earlier this year .

They're not the only company to come out with an iMac look-alike. But their predecessors have already run into trouble with Apple.

Apple guards the iMac design
Apple filed suit against Future Power and Daewoo Telecom, makers of the Intel-based E-Power systems, which also look amazingly like Apple's successful iMac.

Apple officials had no comment on the eMachines system.

Apple's interim CEO Steve Jobs said of the earlier suits that Apple had "invested a lot of money and effort to create and market our award-winning designs, and we intend to vigorously protect them under the law."