I took home a Gateway Tablet PC this weekend to test it out. With its built-in WiFi connection, the tablet makes a pretty decent Web-browsing and reading machine: I could stretch out on the couch, for instance, and read the latest WSJ while holding the tablet on my lap at any comfortable angle. Or on the front porch. Nice.
But the real killer app for the Tablet PC, as far as my daughter is concerned, is Sesame Street. Age two and a half, Clara is already very familiar with this Web site and its many, Flash-based interactive games. (I’ve had “Chicken Dance Elmo” drilled into my brain from seemingly infinite repetition — and don’t even get me started on the SoCal surrealism of “Make-A-Monster.”) With an ordinary computer, she needs to sit at a desk with a grownup who can work the mouse for her, since she doesn’t yet understand the mouse-cursor connection — a fairly complicated piece of hand-eye coordination.
With a tablet, though, she can click on things herself, just by tapping on the screen with the stylus. She mastered this in short order. Many of the games on the Sesame Street site ask her to click on various things, and there are immediate results when she does — things make noise, the monsters respond by talking, colors change, etc. What’s more, we could sit on the couch instead of at a desk. This is a plus since she frequently wants to hop down onto the floor to dance along with the music from the site.
The only potential disaster happened when she grabbed a bottle of cleaning fluid her grandfather was using and started to spray it onto the screen. Yikes! We stopped her in time, fortunately.
The Gateway tablet is a test unit from the Mobile PC labs. Would I pay $2300 for one of my own? No way. But bring the price down, and make it a bit more durable, and you’ve got a pretty good toddler computer.