I'm going to disagree with you guys. I like what Ducati has done with the Monster. It took me a while to figure it out, but it reminded me of another bike, the Brutale. Which I found to be a really cool bike looks-wise, but it was also brutal (pun intended) to sit on, seemingly made for very small people; it was a very cramped seating position for me.
In general, I find Ducati peg positions a bit too "racy", too high, and too far back. And the bar/clip-on positions have too much lean angle. I think that the 800SS is one of the best looking bikes around, but when I was on one it definitely wouldn't have become my bike without risers.
The 696 has more power than the 695, "a slightly lower, more forward foot peg position", a 30.3 inch seat height, and a slipper clutch. The tank has "removeable outer skins", so you can replace them. I have a buddy who had to get his Monster 750's gas tank replaced; it was quite expensive (but luckily his insurance paid for it). So to me the 696 looks like it's going to be a light, fun, comfortable, practical bike. Just what I want to be riding.
And the 848 is just plain spectacular looking. A bike you can take riding (make that racing) and then park in your living room just so you can look at it.
I had a major jones for a 900SS and an ST2, now it seems like with almost every manufacturer I like the old ones better..
At last years IMS I had the pleasure of watching the looks on the faces of the stick-thin-oh-so-hip Ducatisti as the tail section of their 999 snap crackled and popped as I rested my Hagrid-like ass on the seat...
it really was priceless, can't wait to do it again this year since with my shaved head and long goatee I look even crazier.
Maybe I should lick my eyebrows or something.......