One of the things many people quickly realized when they got their first iPad was that kids love it, even babies. There is something inherently appealing and easy about interacting with a computer with your hands. Kids interact with all their other toys with their hands, so it does make sense. At the time it was first used by Apple in the iPhone, the idea of a touch interface was very controversial. Turns out, as they often are, Apple was right.
If your house is anything like mine and you only have one, there is a constant struggle for iPad time. Much as I love Apple, $500 is a little too much to spend on another iPad for the kids. Shouldn’t someone make an inexpensive tablet just for kids? Turns out, someone is.
Perennial kids toy maker LeapFrog tried to make a tablet last year called the LeapPad. It was a hot Christmas buy at $99 so I picked one up but was soon disappointed. The screen is low resolution and the interface, consisting of a physical directional pad and a pen was confusing for our daughter. She was already used to using her fingers on the iPad. The games were ok but not great and the entire system was built on a proprietary operating system, meaning you can only buy games from LeapFrog and they are fairly pricey. She played with it for awhile, but now it sits on a drawer while she always asks me “Where is the iPad”.
Now Toys R Us is entering the market with an Android powered tablet they will sell exclusively. The $150 7″ Tabeo tablet will ship in October. So long as the hardware does not completely disappoint, I think this tablet will be a big hit and a great play for Toys R Us . Building it on the Android OS means access to much more software than LeapFrog could ever get produced for their LeapPad. For Android software developers, this also means a big opportunity for kids software development. The Tabeo is also build to withstand punishment doled out by kids and even comes with protective bumpers. Very smart.
There will also be a curated app store which is also a smart idea. I am sure Toys R Us will take their cut from all the app sales, always a great recurring revenue source. Parental controls will be built in as well. So, for $150 I can give my daughter a tablet that works the same way the iPad does, runs many of the same apps, has a curated app store and is built kid tough? I will wait until I can test the device in person to be sure, but it sounds like a winner to me.
It sounds a little crazy, kids getting their own tablet computers, but it’s really not. Technology, in general, has falled dramatically in price over the years and has become commonplace in our everyday lives. Not so long ago, owning a computer at all was a big deal, but now multiple device families are very common. I always had a ping of discomfort handing over the $500 not build to withstand a child throwing it to the ground iPad over to my kids. Believe me, it has seen much punishment and to it’s credit, it still runs. But I feel much better spending a quarter the price for a device that is more tailored to them in every way. It is not the first, but this new Toys R Us tablet may be the first kids tablet that actually works. We’ve come a long way since G.I. Joe.