This is the fourth and final part of Europa-Apps’ series about the current state and possible future of the children app market (find the others here: http://www.europa-apps.com/en/blog/). Today, as an open-ended conclusion, let us consider alternatives to “generalist” supports, like the iPad or the Google Nexus: what if the market was to swerve on 100% child dedicated devices?
Huge American toy retailer Toys “R” Us recently announced the release of its own children tablet on October 21st. The device will be equipped with the “Ice Cream Sandwich” OS, Android 4.0 nickname, and assembled by the French Archos. The price will be $149.99, which is unbeatable compared to generalist tablets, whose cost never lays below $200, but still very superior to the prices already existing in this market. Naturally, the browsing ecosystem is shut (there are 50 pre-loaded apps, and a “Tabeo App Store” offers 7,000 others for free and thousands for sale, all of them being careful selected), and secured with parental control edited by Profil, the Master of parental filters.
However, Toys “R” Us is not the first to enter that booming market. Even before launching its tablet, the brick-and-mortar company already offered kids touch tabs on its store shelves.
The pioneer for that matter is VTech and its first unbreakable tablet for children, Storio. Conceived so as to introduce the 4-to-9-year-olds to reading, writing and sketching, it was very criticized for its poor design and its limited specifications. Nevertheless, Storio was such a success that it opened the way to all kind of tablets for kids.
The French VideoJet, who is the father of October 2011’s “KidsPad”, will market a second version destined to 6+ children next October, worth €119.99. The concept is the same: a few embedded apps are installed; others may be downloaded on a VideoJet Kids Market or play directly on the cloud via a Wi-Fi connection, which is secured by a Profil filter. Two months after the first KidsPad, the Lexibook Tablet arrived on the market for €199 and became out of stock very fast. The machinery was set in motion. Other tabs followed suit: ChildPad by Archos (€99), Meep by Oregon Scientific, Kurio7 by TechnoSource ($160)… and Tabeo. That tablet is now the first to belong to a toy retailing group, which offers new opportunities where physical and digital commerce could merge.
“It sounds as though Toys “R” Us is looking to reinvent how parents currently buy digital media for use on tablets.”
Chris Silva, mobile industry analyst at Altimeter Group, San Mateo, CA
Manufacturers all put the same advantages forward: a shockproof covering (more or less good-looking by the way…), embedded apps and others available on a dedicated market place, and a parental control by Profil. Though the specifications were quite ridiculous in the beginning, all the actors are now engaged in a fight for the biggest RAM and the most powerful processor, because we should not forget that our kids are even more geek as we are! Still, prices remain lower than those of generalist tablets; but does it justify buying one, especially in addition of the one “for grown-ups” you may already possess?
The major problem with children tablets is that they are entry-level devices, which were refurbished with a more user-friendly interface and a silicone cover for the youngest; not very convincing… The toddlers can already use our iPads without any difficulty, and there are numerous applications which are well-designed for them, available on all the different appstores. But Apple, Google and Samsung lack more of a parental control than of relevant kid content. Amazon’s Kindle is showing the way with its brand new user-management system called “Free-Time,” which enables to allow different actions according to the person using the Kindle. No doubt that its competitors will soon make up for that absence on their devices.