'Kihei' iMacs hitting launch pad

Apple has announced plans for a special event next week in California. Sources say the new consumer desktops will be the guests of honour.

Although Apple has yet to break its silence on the subject, sources told MacWEEK the much-rumoured next-generation iMac code-named Kihei is set to surface at an event scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Apple issued invitations Thursday to the "special event" with iCEO Steve Jobs at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California. The company said it will offer a satellite feed and QuickTime Webcast of the event, which will begin at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

Apple offered no details about Jobs' remarks, and company spokespersons were not immediately available for comment. However, MacWEEK sources said the gathering will mark the global debut of the new iMacs as well as the first public release of Mac OS 9. In fact, sources said the hardware specification for the new iMac was locked down several weeks ago and its release hinged on completion of the system software.

Sources said the Kihei iMacs will be the first Apple products to ship with Borg, the code name for the set of Mac OS 9 technologies tuned specifically for the company's "Core 99" systems, which also include the iBook consumer portable and Sawtooth, the Power Mac G4 design that made its debut with the 450MHz and 500MHz configurations of the pro desktop lineup. Borg reportedly includes the latest Mac OS ROM file as well as changes to the sound subsystem and new energy-saving options.

Meanwhile, Apple took a hard line with Mac-enthusiast Web sites that this week posted images purportedly of the new consumer desktop systems. Sources said the company and its legal counsel have pulled the plug on versions of the images that appeared on Germany's Macnews site, the United States-based AppleInsider and the Netherlands' AppleBits, citing infringement of Apple's copyrights and disclosure of the company's trade secrets.

Nevertheless, the outbreak of rumouritis continued Thursday when NoBeige.com reported what it claims are retail prices for the three-tier Kihei line.

According to MacWEEK sources, the new iMac models will include a trayless DVD drive and a standard 15-inch CRT, as well as a fully transparent chassis, including a Graphite color scheme. All will include a G3 processor, FireWire ports and optional AirPort wireless networking.

MacWEEK sources endorsed Macnews' report that the next-generation iMac would be split into three product lines, with a Blueberry base model, an upgraded "DV" model available in five colours and a "Special Edition" sporting a Graphite enclosure to match the Power Mac G4 line.

The new iMacs will reportedly feature a Harmon-Kardon sound system. The base model will have a 350MHz G3 processor, 64MB of RAM, a CD-ROM drive, a 56Kbps internal modem and a 6GB hard drive. The mid-range model will include two FireWire ports, a 400MHz G3 processor, 64MB of RAM, a 10GB hard drive and a DVD drive. The Special Edition will add more RAM (shipping with 128MB) and a 13GB hard drive.