IN a move aimed at capturing Hong Kong's emerging home PC market, Acer has introduced a new line of computers squarely aimed at local children, students and computer novices. Based on the popular Chinese cartoon series McMug published by Bliss Press, the Acer.McMug line of 486 and Pentium PCs comes with a collection of software custom-developed by Bliss to make the new machines even easier to use than Plug 'N Play systems. Acer is selling the PCs, which are only available in the territory, with the slogan Pluck 'N Taste. According to Michael Mak, Acer Hong Kong's managing director, the Acer.McMug line represents part of the company's corporate philosophy of a global brand with a local touch. 'It is very local because McMug is a local cartoon figure,' Mr Mak said. 'In South Africa we are using teddy bears to associate with our PCs. I wouldn't say it is a global policy but according to local requirements we would do what is necessary to get close to our customers.' The Acer.McMug PC comes fully configured with DOS and Windows, plus a complete program manager and file manager replacement based on the McMug characters. The software eliminates the multiple windows which are a common feature of most Windows systems and brings everything into two basic windows. One window is used to manipulate program manager groups and launch applications. A row of icons along the bottom of the window allows users to call up any group while colourful icons across the top of the windows handle useful functions. For example, a pig icon which acts as a delete function and comes to life in an eating animation whenever an icon is dragged onto it to help children and computer novices make the connection with the removal function. The file manager replacement also includes the animated pig trash can and adds features not found in the standard Windows version including drag and drop file compression to ZIP archives and the ability to treat ZIP files as directories and easily expand individual files within an archive. In addition to the custom Windows interface, McMug software includes additional wallpaper graphics, screen savers and fonts designed to resemble highly stylised children's handwriting. 'If you look at McMug comics, they always mention things related to computers,' Mr Mak said. 'It always uses very simple ways to describe sophisticated jargon. 'Users find it very user-friendly and you aren't afraid of using the equipment. We want everybody in the family to use the computer in their own way.' In addition, anyone who purchases an Acer.McMug PC will be entitled to a free training session in the basics of computer usage or an introduction to the Internet. To support its move into the home market with the Acer.McMug line, Acer is planning to shift its distribution and support strategies to supplement existing channels. 'The concept of Acer.McMug is to change the whole support structure of the consumer PC as well,' Mr Mak said. 'This Acer.McMug will be supported by a three year warranty and one year on-site service.' Acer plans to sell the PCs through bookstores and the computers in department stores and the Trade Development Council's Design Gallery shops. While Mr Mak said Acer had no plans to sell the McMug software as a separate package for other PCs or other Acer models, Bliss Press plans to get more heavily involved in software publishing projects. 'We are more concerned with the interface,' said Alice Mak, an illustrator at Bliss Press. 'We will be making screen savers, fonts and education titles on CD-ROM.' The Acer.McMug PCs start at $13,200 for a 486-DX2 66-MHz model with four MB of RAM, a 540-MB hard drive and a double-speed CD-ROM drive. The Pentium 75 MHz model with eight MB of RAM and PCI bus video and disk access is priced at $19,200. Fax-modems are not included with the systems and are available for an extra $500.