BARBIE BOOTS UP

MATTEL'S NEW CHIEF IS USING AN OLD PLAYMATE TO GET GIRLS AS HOOKED ON COMPUTERS AS BOYS ARE

Barbie may not be everyone's favorite companion--detractors love to hate her plastic perfection--but the fashion doll with the impossible figure has long been the most popular girl at Mattel. The world's No. 1 toymaker, whose products range from Fisher-Price infant and preschool toys to Disney-licensed characters, gets more than one-third of its nearly $4 billion in sales from the 11 1/2-in.-tall mannequin. Now Barbie, who at age 37 has become the best-selling girls' brand ever, is poised to strut into, and perhaps change forever, the male-dominated world of multimedia software and video games.

This month, after almost a year of buildup,...