Apple Computer Inc. -- the personal computer maker whose anticipated public stock offering has whet Wall Street appetites for weeks -- said today it will sell public shares next week.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last month, Apple said it expected to offer 4.5 million shares to the public at a price between $14 and $17 a share. Today the company said it will sell at least 4.6 million and perhaps as much as 5 million shares in a price range between $20 and $22.

At $14 a share the founders and early investors in the firm would own stock worth on paper $670 million. At $22 a share the paper value would be more than $1 billion. Even after the company sells 4.6 million shares -- $500,000 of them from six companies that put money into Apple, the rest from the company treasury -- there will be more than 47 million shares of stock in the hands of the founders and early investors.

However, because the company had sales of $117.9 million and profits of $11.7 million in its accounting year ended Sept. 26, it is doubtful even the highly speculative technology market could absorb the 47 million shares of Apple stock at a price anywhere near $20 a share.

The underwriting is being handled by a big New York investment banking firm, Morgan, Stanley & Co. Inc., and a San Francisco investment banking house, Hambrecht & Quist. Hambrecht also was underwriter last October of the first public offering of Genentech Inc., the gene-splicing company whose stock rocketed from $35 a share to nearly $90 within minutes of the offering. In recent weeks, however, Genentech has settled back to about $50 a share.