Speculation is intensifying over Apple's new-products plans for Macworld Expo.

Roger Kay, an analyst with International Data Corp - often briefed by Apple on the company's plans - said: "I do know that they had people working through Christmas and staying up late."

And Macworld has also been told by Apple insiders that the company's marketing and PR departments have been on 'red alert' for many weeks.

Apple has fuelled the speculation with banner-style teasers on its home page. Earlier in the week, it promises that its Expo announcements would be: "Beyond the rumour sites. Way Beyond. Its current Expo promise is now: "To go where no PC has gone before."

Blown away Apple has also warned customers to "count on being blown away" during Steve Jobs' two-hour long keynote.

A flat-panel iMac is chief among the rumours sites' predicted products. Taiwan-based computer manufacturer Quanta Computer was reported by that country's press in December as claiming it had won a contract with Apple to build more than 1 million of flat-panel iMacs.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter analyst Gillian Munson also predicts that Apple will produce 100,000 new iMacs.

USB Warburg analyst Don Young wrote in a research note last month after meeting with Apple executives that "there is a lot of management enthusiasm about the new product pipeline" at Apple.

Young also expects Apple to push digital-entertainment appliances, predicting "more wireless connectivity, and more-powerful processors and systems".

Partner software-vendors, meanwhile, are being bold about their planned Expo launches. Connectix will show the latest version of Virtual PC for Mac, while Cupertino-based ThinkFree will unveil its latest ThinkFree Office, a Java-based office productivity software suite that's compatible with Microsoft's Office.

Macworld Online will bring you the hot Expo news as it breaks. Steve Jobs' keynote begins at 5pm UK time. Apple will webcast the keynote using QuickTime.
Given server limitations and expected traffic levels, TechTV will also be webcasting the speech.