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宝宝平板电脑来了

JP Mangalindan 2011年08月12日

玩具制造商Vinci公司将开售一款儿童平板电脑——不过价格可不便宜哦。

    苹果的iPad已经卖出了2,500多万台,它不仅吸引了成年消费者,也吸引了他们的孩子。小家伙们也学着父母的样子,用手指在平滑的用户界面上进行敲击,扫动等手势操作,学得比他们的父母还快。他们到底应不应该小小年纪就学着用iPad,这还是一个值得争论的话题,不过位于加州圣莫尼卡市的玩具公司Vinci的创始人杨丹(音译——译注)博士却认为这无可厚非。

    2009年的时候,杨丹发现自己的女儿在家里玩智能手机,于是她就自己出资创立了Vinci公司。这家初创公司有40多名员工,Vinci这个名字取自大画家、发明家达•芬奇的姓。现在该公司打算推出了一款Vinci平板电脑,专门面向0到4岁的儿童。

    杨丹表示,Vinci平板并不打算取代现有的儿童早期智力开发工具,而是要作为他们的补充。她说:“我想做的是研究不同的文化,把它们各自的优势结合在一起,找出一套更好的早教方案。”她认为东方文化更重视认知,而西方文化更强调创造力、沟通和独立。(她举例说,在中国,一个三岁的孩子就能从1数到20,而美国孩子一般到了五岁才能数到20。)

    Vinci平板采用了一块7英寸的显示屏,外围镶以医用级材质制造的红色橡胶把手,外观时尚。它搭载了安卓2.3操作系统,一颗主频为1GHz的处理器,512MB内存和300万相素的摄相头。在硬件方面甚至跟苹果和三星等大厂家的平板有一拼。不过由于担心幅射会对儿童造成作害,因此它没有搭载WiFi和3G上网功能。此外,针对不同年龄段的儿童,它还搭载了游戏、音乐视频和故事书,旨在全面培养孩子的动作、语言、认知和感知技能。

    杨丹认为,目前针对儿童的应用程序还不够全面,无法充分满足早教的需求。“应用开发者们甚至不知道孩子的发育标志意味着什么。他们以为只需要随便拼凑出个东西,然后把它放在(苹果的应用商店里)就可以赚钱了。而我们设计内容的时候,还要考虑到儿童的年龄段,考虑到发育期儿童的方方面面。”

    Vinci平板在本周三正式上市。此次Vinci共推出两款平板,价格分别为389美元和479美元。后者有8GB的储存空间,是前者的一倍。官方称470美元版的待机时间可以达到6小时,而且它还预装了很多应用。在杨丹的畅想中,她的设计团队可谓广阔天地,大有作为。这款儿童平板只是投石问路之作,针对更广阔的数码生态系统,还会源源不断地推出许多后续产品。(Vinci即将推出的下一个产品是一套可以下载的数字积木,可以让孩子进行拼写和数字游戏。)

    Vinci并不是唯一一个吃螃蟹的人。差不多就在Vinci推出儿童平板的同时,LeadFrog公司也推出了一款名叫LeapPad的低端儿童平板,售价仅为99美元,它采用了一块5英寸的显示屏,存储空间也比Vinci平板小一些,主要面向4至9岁的儿童。据说LeapPad在前期的预售中全部售謦,这对苦苦挣扎的LeadPad公司来说真是天大的喜讯,因为这家早教公司上两个季度都报了亏损。

    LeapPad的预售告捷,说明这款产品可能的确会取得成功。但是相比之下,Vinci平板的销量可能更能反映出儿童平板是否真的存在一个规模可观的市场,尽管两者的目标顾客在年龄上存在着几岁的差距。毕竟Vinci平板的起价达到了389美元,比LeapPad贵了将近300美元,只比功能强大的iPad低了110美元。不过由于这款平板只面向儿童,因此这也限制了它的使用寿命。

    苹果的iPad是当之无愧的平板之王,它霸占了61%的全球市场份额。到2015年,平板电脑的年销售额有望增至490亿元。有些批评人士可能会说,Vinci平板只是iPad的玩具版。不过只要Vinci和LeapFrog等厂商能在平板电脑这座金山上挖下一小块石头,他们也算成功了。年轻的父母们是否愿意掏钱买这么昂贵的玩具,我们拭目以待。

    译者;朴成奎

    With over 25 million sold, Apple's iPad isn't just a hit with adult consumers but also with their kids. In fact, they often learn to tap, swipe and pinch their way around its slick user interface faster than their parents. But whether or not they ought to at such an early age is a matter still up for debate. Dr. Dan Yang, founder of the Santa Monica, California-based Vinci, believes they should.

    After discovering her daughter playing around with a smartphone back in 2009, Yang self-funded Vinci, a startup with 40-plus employees. Named after Leonardo da Vinci, the company plans to release the Vinci Tab, a tablet geared toward children ages zero to four years old.

    As Yang tells it, the Vinci Tab isn't intended to replace current early child development tools, but complement them. "What I was trying to do was look at different cultures and combine different strengths and find a better solution for early learning," says Yang. She believes that Eastern cultures tend to place a heavier emphasis on cognition, while Western cultures focus on creativity, communication and independence. (Case in point, she argues: a three-year-old in China may know how to count to 20, while that may not happen for an American child until the age of five.)

    The Vinci Tab sports a red rubber handle fashioned out of non-toxic, medical-grade material surrounding a 7-inch display. It comes loaded with the Android 2.3 operating system, a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and a 3-megapixel camera on the back. Hardware-wise, that puts it in league with other tablets from the likes of Apple (AAPL) and Samsung. It's missing WiFi and 3G connectivity to reduce radio emissions potentially harmful to the youngest users. Also onboard: games, music videos and story books for different age groups aimed at developing fine motor, language, cognitive, and sensory skills.

    Yang thinks current apps for children aren't comprehensive enough to nurture early child development. "Developers don't even understand what the developmental signs in children mean. They think they can make some money by putting something together and putting it in the [Apple App Store]," says Yang. "When we designed the content, we had to consider what the age of the child was. We had to look at all aspects of the developing child."

    When it launches Wednesday, the Vinci Tab will come in two flavors, a $389 and $479 version. The pricier tablet doubles storage to 8 GB, boosts battery life to six hours and comes with more pre-loaded apps. It will also serve as the first salvo into what Yang envisions as a larger digital ecosystem of the team's own design. (Up next: A downloadable set of digitized blocks featuring spelling and number games.

    It won't be alone on shelves, though. The Vinci Tab arrives around the same time as LeapFrog's (LF) LeapPad, a significantly cheaper $99 tablet with a smaller 5-inch screen and less storage skewed towards kids between ages four and nine. LeapFrog's offering reportedly sold out during early pre-sales -- a boon for the struggling education company which posted losses the last two quarters.

    While LeapPad pre-sales indicate a possible success, reception of the Vinci Tab could be a better gauge of whether there's a sizable market for tablets aimed at the younger set, even if their target customers are a few years apart. After all, the Vinci Tab starts at $389 -- just $110 less than the more versatile iPad and nearly $300 more than the LeapPad. By limiting its scope to young children, it's also possibly limiting its lifespan too.

    Detractors may also see it as merely a play on the iPad, the reigning tablet champ with a 61% global share in a market that's expected to rake in as much as $49 billion come 2015. If tablet makers like Vinci and LeapFrog can get even a mere sliver of the tablet gold rush, they'll have succeeded. Whether or not parents will actually shell out so much for a high-priced gadget remains to be seen.

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