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Kids Get Their Own Tablet on Android

It’s not too soon to predict what the top-selling tech toy is likely to be this holiday season, and that would seem to be the Nabi Kids Tablet, on Android.

It won’t even arrive in the stores at Toys "R" Us until next week, but the Nabi is already reportedly the chain’s top-selling product in the electronics, gaming and learning categories, based on pre-orders.

Priced at $199, the Nabi costs roughly a third of the adult version of an Android or iPad tablet, plus it comes packed with around $150 worth of pre-loaded software in games, songs, ebooks, and other useful apps for the pre-K to ten-year-old crowd.

CEO Jim Mitchell of FUHU, which created the Nabi and is selling it exclusively through the giant toys chain for now, told me his team came up with the idea when they acquired their own first iPads, only to discover that their very young children wanted to play with the devices when they took them home.

“The problem is you’re not really comfortable with them playing with a $600 device,” he said. "You get it back from them and the screen is smudged, they may have deleted some of your files, and so on. One of my colleague’s son, who was maybe three or four, somehow ordered $250 worth of smurf toys on his iPad one night.”

Working with its giant Chinese manufacturing behemoth, FoxConn, FUHU came up with a “kiddified” tablet with a rubber bumper frame that makes the device easy to grip and hard to break.

Beyond that, and the pre-loaded, kid-friendly software, this is not so much a dumbed-down product as an example of one with a default setting that confines kids to appropriate activities and functionalities like playing games, watching SpongeBob SquarePants, or (for pre-schoolers), putting together puzzles and learning how to read.

The dirty little secret here, for parents, is that after junior goes to bed, you can switch the Nabi to “Mommy Mode” and have a full-functioning adult version of an android tablet that can do pretty much everything that the much more expensive tablets offer.

In this way, the Nabi is not priced to make money for FUHU. “We won’t make huge money on the tablet itself,” acknowledges Mitchell. “It’s the accessories that go with it that will be profitable for us.”

Those include add-ons that let a child add a head, arms and feet to the device case so that it resembles a character from Kung Fu Panda or Hello Kitty, etc. You can already begin hearing the dollars that will flow, ka-ching!, via deals with the big gaming and entertainment companies out there.

The Nabi's UI is kid-friendly, with large buttons and icons, and, based on early reviews, kids find it intuitive and easy to use. It actually has an extra graphics card, due to the higher portion of time kids spend playing games than do most adults.

It’s hard to see any product out there this holiday season that can compete on price, so that -- plus the Mommy Mode option -- should drive plenty of sales.