In a city where plastic Snoopies and Hello Kitty are all the rage, Apple Computer's iMac - a PC frequently described as being 'cute' - should be widely accepted. Apple released the sleekly styled iMac in the SAR on Saturday concurrently with its latest update of its Mac operating system, version 8.5. One reason why the iMac's launch was delayed was to ensure all those sold locally would contain OS 8.5, Apple Asia-Pacific president Graham Long said. Apple said Hong Kong users could claim to be the first in the world to buy version 8.5 as Hongkong Telecom had opened six of its retail outlets for an hour, from midnight on Saturday, to sell iMacs to enthusiastic Apple fans. Apple would not disclose the number of iMacs sold in that hour. Hongkong Telecom is offering three months' free Netvigator Internet subscription for each $10,480 iMac sold through its CSL, 1010, One2Free and 1+1 shops. Mr Long predicted local iMac sales would match those of other Asian markets. In Japan and Australia, a run on iMacs had led to supply shortages, although Apple had no plan to outsource its manufacture, he said. Sales would appear to be less than frenzied in Hong Kong. At 1pm on Saturday, the CSL branch in Tsim Sha Tsui was nearly empty, with the demonstration iMac sitting unused. Interest was keener at the Hennessy Road branch, where about 20 units had sold by 1.30pm and a small group of 20-somethings were trying out the PC. 'One of the challenges we have with iMac . . . is how to go to market with Asia,' Mr Long said. While the company had done well in the region's publishing sectors, it had not done well in education and consumer markets. Apple had addressed this by appointing a consumer business development manager and hiring dedicated sales staff for the education sector in each country, he said. The company hoped that iMac's popularity would attract first-time computer buyers to its Macintosh OS, as well as convert present Windows OS users. 'First-time users are the most important customers we can get,' Mr Long said. A survey of iMac buyers in the United States showed that 29 per cent were first-time computer buyers, 13 per cent had owned Windows-based machines and 58 per cent were previous Mac users. Two current Mac users said though they were enthusiastic about the iMac, they were uncommitted to buying one. They said their Mac peripherals would not be compatible with the iMac, which used only USB (universal serial bus)-compatible connections. 'I'm really happy for Apple that people are interested in it, but I think the floppy might be an issue,' one said. The iMac has a CD-Rom drive, but no built-in floppy drive. Apple has partnered with Imation to create a drive that takes both floppies and Imation's 120 MB-capacity Super Disk. The drive, which is sold separately for about $1,500, has a blue-and-white translucent casing, just like the iMac. The iMac contains a 233 MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 4 gb hard drive, 32 MB SDRam memory, 15-inch monitor (which is integrated with the traditional computer hardware box), 24X CD-Rom drive and built-in 56 kbps modem. Apple, which optimised the iMac for Internet usage, claimed the PC's 233 MHz G3 chip was faster than Intel's 400 MHz Pentium II. It demonstrated to reporters the performance of an iMac and a top-line 400 MHz Compaq Computer PC running the same video clip, which contained fast-moving colour graphics and sound. The iMac performed much faster than the Compaq, although chip analysts say the G3's performance varies widely.