Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Up Close With the Next Generation of Tablet Users

I spent some time this past weekend exploring the future of tablets.

I wasn’t looking at the next generation of devices, but rather the next generation of people who will be using those devices. Like many youngsters, my 6-year-old cousin and almost-3-year-old cousin need no introduction to touchscreen devices.

My cousins have long enjoyed playing with my iPad, as well as their dad’s iPod touch. This year, they added two more devices to their lives: For Christmas, their dad got an iPad that they occasionally let him use. And the older of the two girls also got a kid-oriented tablet — the LeapPad Explorer, by LeapFrog.

The LeapPad is proving quite popular. It plays matching games, assembles scrapbooks and takes pictures and videos.

And while it took the kids no time at all, their parents spent about nine hours trying to get the thing to properly sync with one of their computers so they could download games.

For those uninitiated with LeapFrog, it’s an educational-technology company that creates all kinds of fun tech geared exclusively for kids. The LeapPad is this year’s hot toy, riding the coattails of the iPad’s popularity. Past Leap devices have overlaid educational gaming on top of other popular tech shapes. Indeed, sitting unused in a corner of the house was the Leapster Explorer — a device that plays many of the same titles as the LeapPad, but is shaped more like a Nintendo Game Boy. The company has also made devices that offer a kid’s take on a laptop and grocery store price scanner, among other digital products.

Of course, the iPad itself boasts plenty of educational content, and was also an instant hit with the girls, who enjoyed tapping on its virtual piano and playing a game called Temple Run.

What struck me is the place that both devices had in my cousins’ lives. They used the LeapPad on their own and together, and shared the iPad — at least on occasion — with their dad.

More importantly, it reinforces the fact that the next generation of computer buyers is already having their minds shaped. And their expectations are high. Everything should be a touchscreen and instantly responsive. Devices should also be versatile and capable of quickly learning new tricks. And, by default, Apple is the gold standard.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald