One common phenomena in consumer electronics is market fragmentation. Once a product becomes established more specialized versions begin to appear targeting specific groups. And there is no single group more near and dear to a consumer’s heart than the young members of their own family—Kids.
Enter "Fable" a new 7-inch portable LCD tablet designed specifically for the kids market, dubbed "…the first fully interactive, portable tablet that enables children to read, draw, game and share over the mobile broadband network." It takes digital pictures too.
But beyond the (yet to be published) hardware spec sheet, what’s clear from the beginning is, this is no ordinary EBR / tablet device. The company, Isabella Products Inc. (Concord, MA), recognizes that consumers are looking for a comprehensive solution to kids education within the digital learning environment. And perhaps that is the point. Manufacturers (particularly those with little or no brand awareness) do not have the luxury of just throwing me-too products into the market with the expectation of gaining share. Real solutions require a well thought out plan that truly serves the customer needs.
For example, to target the Kids niche market, the company uses very specific messaging that includes "Safe" and "Secure" at the top of this list. Sure, there’s "fun, colorful, engaging, entertaining, interactive, and, oh yes educational," but without those first two—parents won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.
To insure safety and security for the kids space, Isabella, turned to its own Vizitme.com web site that links personal photo frame content with (web aware) digital picture frames in the same "safe-secure" way. It’s a cloud approach to "clan-level" sharing between (extended) family members and friends, often separated by distance. The original site allows not just photo sharing, but text messaging tagged to specific pictures giving a new dimension of interactivity to shared images.
On the content side, the company chose Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) the world’s largest provider of educational products and solutions for pre-K-12 learning. They are the big dog in education at this level, claiming education products and services used by 57M students throughout all 50 U.S. states and 120 countries. HMH corporate origins date back to 1832.
Beyond serving as an e-book reader for children’s books, other known details on the tablet application so far, include:
- Drawing - Art tools like markers, paintbrushes, magic pens or shapes, for drawing on blank pages, coloring book pages or photos.
- Gaming - interactive games focusing early education (counting, reading, nutrition colors, shapes and other themes), supported by HMH and other publishers’ unique characters and stories.
- Photo Sharing w/onboard camera - Supports delivery of photos from family and friends to Fable’s own Gallery. Allow users to take photos from Fable and share them as well. Photos can also be used as coloring sheets in the drawing application.
- No details yet on price or wireless carriers or if this is a Wi-Fi only device.
By taking a page out of Apple’s device/web/walled garden approach, Isabella has helped to ensure the "Safe" and "Secure" aspects for its system. With a good tablet design (yet to be proven), a secure and established content management system (Vizitme) and a top notch content provider (HMH), Isabella has put the pieces together for a new and (hopefully) "really cool" device. The caveat here are the missing details on exactly what Isabella will deliver-and for just how much. It will also be interesting to see what other solutions develop over the course of this next wave of specialized products.
One unfortunate point regarding the new tablet, it will miss the busiest buying season of the year and not ship until sometime in early 2011 (Chinese New Year, perhaps?)
Overall, we think this approach in targeting the children’s education niche market and its partnership with HMH is a brilliant move for the company, and considering its Vizitme.com assets, a well thought out product offering that includes a comprehensive (safe/secure) experience could all combine to give Isabella an important head start in what is sure to be a very competitive field. - Steve Sechrist
Note: look for an expanded story on this and the new color E Ink display in the upcoming Mobile Display Report on Nov. 15th.