Toys ‘R’ Us Launches Own Child Tablet

If you’re fed up of your child hogging your tablet computer, the answer might lie at Toys ‘R’ Us. The company is taking pre-orders for a $150 children’s tablet that launches on October 21st.

The Tabeo is billed as “a fun. safe and innovative learning tablet created just for kids.” The hardware itself doesn’t look too shoddy: it’s a 7 inch touchscreen with front and rear cameras, 1GHz processor, Wi-Fi and HDMI connections and 4GB of on-board storage plus a micro SD slot. Perhaps surprisingly the screen is capacitive rather than resistant, though today’s kids may be familiar with gentle controls rather than the prodding you might expect them to prefer.

There are also plenty of child-friendly features, starting with a “drop-safe” bumper. There’s also a specially designed interface overlaid on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and a set of parental controls.

Unlike most tablets, it comes with 50 pre-installed apps covering electronic books, educational apps and games including Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. There’s also a dedicated app store with around 7,000 free apps, all deemed suitable for kids. It’s not clear whether you can buy or install other apps without jailbreaking.

From a business perspective, it’s an interesting strategy as the device is only available from Toys ‘R’ Us. The Wall Street Journal notes that this means the retailer will take a financial hit if it has to drop the price later on. With most of its lines it’s the manufacturer who loses out if that happens.

Having seen my two-year-old niece happily operating an iPad, switching between apps, cueing up videos and playing games (albeit having never left the first screen of Angry Birds thanks to her pacificist gameplay strategy), I can certainly see the appeal of giving a child a cheap tablet, or at least using it as a reward for good behavior or a way to occupy them.

You could probably get much the same effect with an unbranded cheap Android tablet, but Toys ‘R’ Us may appeal to parents who don’t want the hassle of making a device kid-friendly, but want a degree of confidence that the device isn’t going to fall apart or seize up in a few months.

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