Steve Jobs, head of Apple, said the firm will unveil a consumer product that is "innovative, revolutionary and different" at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco on 7 January 2002.

There's every chance this is a hype move by Apple, but there's been much speculation in the industry recently about whether Apple would produce a flat-panel iMac.

Apple said the "powerful, user-friendly and eye-catching" product will be launched worldwide and is expected to have, rather unsurprisingly, an "enormous impact". The statements were made in an invitation sent to journalists in the Netherlands late last week.

Apple won't give out more details.

Analysts earlier this month said Apple placed a large order for 15in flat-panel displays for its all-in-one PC, according to media reports. Taiwanese notebook manufacturer Quanta claimed to have won a contract to manufacture the new iMac.

Earlier this year Apple said it would only ship its computers with LCDs, but didn't specify the iMac at that time. The iMac has not had a major makeover since its launch in 1998.

Apple in the Netherlands would not confirm the flat-panel order and declined to say whether Apple feels the iMac is ready for a new look.

Sales of the iMac have been declining, bringing calls for a refreshed product.