Is Apple about to unveil a new 'absolutely different' product?

A Japanese website claims Apple's elves are working on a brand new gadget. Whatever could it be? Here, 4 theories

What else can the Apple Store dish out? As rumors swirl, techies fantasize about new laptops, desktops, and touchscreens.
(Image credit: EVERETT KENNEDY BROWN/epa/Corbis)

According to the sometimes reliable Japanese website Macotakara, Apple is preparing to release a new gadget that is "absolutely different from current products." Yes, it's just a rumor. But the tech world can't help but speculate as to what new toy Steve Jobs might be coming up with. Here, four theories about the fabled new product:

1. A touchscreen iMac

"The most logical-but-kind-of-wild idea is a redefinition of the iMac" that would finally bring touch computing to the desktop computer, says Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo. "Psychologically, consumers now crave direct touchscreen interaction." People are hooked on the iPad, and "it's clear that [Apple's new operating system] Lion is paving the way to a completely touch-oriented world at Apple."

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2. A new generation of laptops

Perhaps Apple is ditching the MacBook Pro's "conventional boxy design, hard drives, and DVD slots to adopt a super-skinny MacBook Air-inspired shape," says Kit Eaton at Fast Company. Exactly, says Katie Marsal at Apple Insider. Apple could "transition its flagship line of MacBook Pro notebooks into slimmer enclosures akin to the MacBook Air, dropping traditional hard disk drives in favor of solid state drives and jettisoning optical disc drives completely."

3. A totally new desktop computer

"In terms of any addition to the current Mac lineup, it seems obvious to me that Apple has been missing its basic 'Mac' in its hardware options," says Topher Kessler at CNET. The Mac Pro is too big and expensive, and the Mac Mini doesn't do enough for many users. Sure, there's the iMac — "a great machine" — but it requires purchasing a screen you might not need. I think there's a gap between the $1,000 Mini and the $2,500 Mac Pro that Apple could fill.

4. An Apple laptop without an Intel processor

Perhaps Apple will ditch Intel, which has long manufactured the processors for Apple's computers, in favor of ARM processors for its laptops. Based in the United Kingdom, ARM is known for its power-efficient processors in the mobile arena; it already designs chips for the iPhone and iPad, and the MacBook could be next. But not everyone is thrilled by that possibility. "If Apple were to move Macs to ARM-based architecture right now, it would be a total disaster," says Alex Heath at Cult of Mac. "The processing power is just not there for a MacBook or iMac."

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