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PC joins the Mickey Mouse club

Disney targets children with a desktop system that sports those familiar ears.

Banking on the huge popularity that Mickey Mouse enjoys with children worldwide, Walt Disney on Thursday unveiled a desktop PC with a monitor sporting the ears of the cartoon character.

The desktop, named the Disney Dream Desk PC, comes loaded with Disney-branded applications that enable children to draw, edit pictures, create music, and write and direct their own movies. The housing for the TFT (thin-film transistor) liquid-crystal display is Mickey-shaped, and the system's mouse is designed for small hands.

The children's PC idea has been tried before, but without much success. Toy giant Mattel launched Barbie and Hot Wheels computers four years ago, but its partner Patriot Computer filed for bankruptcy soon after taking orders.

Disney's desktop, built by German PC maker Medion, comes with an Intel Celeron D 330 processor and a 3-D graphics card from ATI Technologies. Embedded speakers, a DVD player, a CD writer and player, and a digital pen are also included. The system is preloaded with the Windows XP operating system and software for e-mail filtering, Internet filtering and pop-up blocking.

Also bundled with the Dream Desk are several popular Disney games--such as "Mahjongg," "Extremely Goofy Skateboarding," "Adventures in Typing with Timon & Pumbaa"--and a 14-day access pass for Disney's ToonTown Online.

The computer will retail for $599, with the ear-bedecked monitor sold separately for $299. It will be stocked at Disney's own retail outlets and online stores starting Aug. 12 and at retail store CompUSA from Sept. 12, Disney said.