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Tablets for kids – not just an expensive toy

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With many predicting that tablets will outsell laptops within the next couple of years, the market for inexpensive tablets catering for the educational environment is one that is set to grow.

There aren’t many things you can be sure of in IT, where predictions are rarely worth the pixels they’re printed on. But it’s hard to argue with the explosive growth of tablet computer sales and their enormous popularity with consumers.

All of the major analysts Gartner, IDG, NPD and so on reckon that tablet sales will outstrip laptops within the next four years. Microsoft is even more ambitious in its projections: it thinks the smooth transition to tablets provided by Windows 8 will see touchscreen slates and convertibles outselling traditional clamshell laptops by the end of the year.

If you aren’t selling tablets yet, you’re missing out, and you’re going to find it a tough market to move into the longer you hold out. When not if you do add tablets to your portfolio, remember that the market is a lot more complex than it might at first seem.

We’re all familiar with high-end tablets from the likes of Apple, Samsung and ASUS. With their ability to read up-to-date reports and access cloud services for mail they’re the ultimate business devices or at least, that’s what we tell ourselves while we’re reading digital newspapers, watching movies and playing the latest Angry Birds game.

‚”Top end tablets are fantastic, but there’s a lot of competition,‚” says Tarsus Technologies Voigh Maconochie, product manager for Onyx, ‚”There are huge opportunities for creative resellers at the other end of the spectrum. Cost-effective Android tablets have massive potential in an educational environment or as a single purpose device.‚”

So long as the tablet in question has access to Google’s Play Store for apps, says Maconochie, it doesn’t matter how expensive or highly specified it is. There are hundreds of apps to help children with their schoolwork, from maths quizzes to tracing letters to learn letter shapes. And for older kids, there’s unfettered access to the web via a WiFi network to help them with their homework too. Add a Bluetooth keyboard, and an Android tablet is faster and more responsive than a more expensive netbook. Plus, the battery life is much better too.

Another opportunity for tablet sales is to replace single purpose devices. Android tablets excel as e-readers, of course, but when a low end in-car GPS system with a 3.5-inch screen costs the same as a 7-inch Onyx tablet with turn-by-turn directions built in, it’s hard to justify the former over the latter.

How can you be sure betting on affordable tablets is the right thing to do? If the rumours are true, a certain company is looking to capitalise on exactly this market with the recent release of a smaller and lower specified version of a very successful current tablet and where they lead, you’d be wise to follow.

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