Coming in five suspiciously familiar colours, Dell Computer's consumer-desktop Webpc is the iMac's latest Windows-driven competition.

Specifically designed for accessing the Internet (heard that before?) and priced at US$1,000, the colour-coordinated Webpc follows Apple's iMac blueprint with an unnerving accuracy. iMac and Webpc are set for a Christmas showdown, that unusually sees the Mac OS ahead from the start.

Webpc, which is around one-third the size of a traditional desktop tower and weighs 10 pounds, ships with an Intel Celeron 433MHz processor, a 15-inch CRT monitor, a printer and one year of Internet service. The PC also has five plug-&-play Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports for connecting scanners, digital cameras, MP3 players and other peripherals. One of those peripherals might be a floppy drive – yes, Dell has followed Apple's lead in junking the ancient storage tech.

The Webpc - available in shades of blue, orange, teal, red and purple - also comes in a 466MHz configuration ($1,099), which includes an optional flat-panel display for an extra $850. A 500MHz Intel Pentium III-based model starts at $1,499; $2,349 with flat-panel display.

"The Webpc is for consumers looking for a really hassle-free solution that allows a user to surf the Web, play games and use office applications when working at home," John Medica, vice president and general manager of Dell's Web Products Group.

Webpc is the first product from Dell's Web Products Group and is designed to make it easy for consumers to purchase a computer, set it up and surf the Internet. The Webpc keyboard has special Internet keys for quick access to email and Internet search engines, and users can get technical support through a "click and fix" email support system, according to Dell. To minimize lengthy boot-up times, the PC has a "sleep-mode" key which instantly wakes up the computer.

Elsewhere in the Windows-PC market, Compaq has followed Apple's successful name brand by releasing a computer called the iPaq, and Gateway has created a beige all-in-one Astro PC.