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Education Technology News: Disney Taps Netbook Inventors for New, Kid-Friendly Device
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Education Featured Article

June 17, 2009

Disney Taps Netbook Inventors for New, Kid-Friendly Device

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor


Hey kids, welcome to the Wonderful World of . . . netbooks?
 
It’s true: The Walt Disney Co. today announced it’s tapping Taiwanese PC-maker ASUSTeK – the company that invented the netbook – as it pursues a plan to introduce $350 netbooks for children. The Internet-optimized devices (which are far less expensive than laptops and have emerged as a bright spot in the failing consumer electronics industry), are expected to begin selling late next month on Amazon.com (News - Alert) and at Toys “R” Us stores in the United States and Canada.

 
Disney’s offering will be called the “NetPal.”
 
Chris Heatherly, the head of Disney’s so-called “Toymorrow” team and vice president of toys and consumer electronics for Disney consumer products, said that today’s kids are at ease with the devices, as they’re part of the digital generation.
 
“Parents are comfortable with their kids using the Internet, but they want to be assured that their kids are having a safe online experience,” Heatherly said. “The Disney Netpal, designed together by ASUS and our Disney Toymorrow team, is a no-compromise device. There are plenty of terrific features and fun applications designed just for kids, but parents have ultimate control over the experience, with the power to set limits on how their kids are using the PC.”
 
Specifically, the NetPal will include more than 40 parental control options, an 8.9-inch LCD display, WiFi (News - Alert) capabilities, Windows XP Home, and kid-friendly software featuring Disney characters and icons.
 
It sounds like a great marketing ploy for Disney, and a timely seizure of a rare top-seller among CE devices.
 
Of course, Disney isn’t the only company that’s harnessed the success of netbooks as it targets a children’s audience.
 
Dell (News - Alert), for example, recently unveiled its new Latitude 2100 at an event today in Australia. The kid-friendly netbook is designed for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. And from its appearance, youngsters will be hard pressed to turn away from them.
 
The Latitude 2100 comes in a variety of colors– School Bus Gold, Chalkboard Black, Ball Field Green, Blue Ribbon and Schoolhouse Red. Users can also personalize the back of the battery pack, Dell said in a company announcement. What’s more, the device is made for rough handling because it is rubberized.
 
The Latitude 2100 features a 10-inch screen, a keyboard and comes with touch screen capability. The netbook can run on Microsoft (News - Alert) Corp.’s Windows XP and Vista operating systems and the Ubuntu version of Linux. Users can also add a Web camera.
 
Disney says it’s new NetPal includes browsers and e-mail with extra filters to assure that parents are able to control online safety and content for their children, and can easily select with whom their children can correspond via e-mail. The Disney Magic Desktop “gadget tray” offers a creatively designed 2D menu displaying Disney-themed e-mail, Disney-themed browser and a robust suite of Disney-themed parental control options.
 
Eric Chen, vice president of ASUS’ systems business group, said his company is “proud to be involved in the creation of this very unique netbook for kids.”
 
“The Disney Netpal is creatively designed in a way that truly keeps the Disney magic alive, and its state-of-the-art features make it an excellent choice for kids and families,” Chen said.
 

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan


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