In a scene that’s grown too familiar in many households, parents and children sit together but with all of them buried in their own screens, whether on smartphones, tablets or TV sets.
Hoping to bring everyone back together in front of a single screen, Fuhu unveiled giant 20-inch and 24-inch tablets on Tuesday that the company said will extend its line of educational apps and tablets to group settings.
“The technology right now, it’s isolating,” said Fuhu founder and president Robb Fujioka. “We’re trying to find a product that enhances collaboration and socialization.”
The Nabi Big Tab HD tablets will go on sale this fall online and at Costco and Toys R Us for $449 for the smaller version and $549 for the larger size — prices on par with that of gaming console like the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Jim Mitchell, Fuhu’s chief executive, said the “world’s biggest Android tablets made for sharing” would be more portable than consoles: A special enclosure allows the 10-1/2-pound Big Tab to be carried from one room to the next.
Fuhu, with about 300 employees and based in El Segundo, has risen to fame in recent years through its focus on creating educational apps for its Nabi tablets, including the Nabi DreamTab, created in partnership with DreamWorks Animation.
Fuhu sold 1.5 million of the Android-powered devices last year, generating $200 million in sales. The goal is to sell 300,000 to 500,000 of the larger tablets in the coming months. Fujioka said there’s a market for the Big Tab because about 20% to 25% of the nearly 200 million tablets sold worldwide in 2013 were purchased by parents who wanted a “family tablet” but ended up with something that didn’t live up to its billing.
With the Big Tab, Fuhu envisions five specific scenarios where the bigger screens promote more interaction than existing options.
The tablet will come with about a dozen board-style games, including Candyland, for “family game night” as well as about 20 games, such as chess and air hockey, that are designed for two players. Videos and books drive “family movie night” and “story time” experiences. Some of the content will come from Disney and Cartoon Network. Drawing, animation and movie-making apps are among “creative” uses.
Jim Mainard, head of digital strategy and new business development at DreamWorks, said one of the first conversations he had with Fuhu’s executives was about technology getting in the way of families.
The Big Tab should provide children a large, reusable canvas to express themselves, he added. The creative app features some characters from DreamWorks films.
“Our goal is to see kids learning to cooperate to achieve a higher goal,” Mainard. “The more casual, fun educational games are rarely collaborative, but now you just screen real estate for 20 fingers or 10 hands. That’s a big win.”
Analysts said calling something with a screen size bigger than 11 inches a tablet is unusual. Only 2 million 11-inch-plus are expected to be shipped this year compared with nearly 40 million shipments of 7-to-8-inch tablets, according research firm NPD DisplaySearch. Weight and poor battery life cripple large tablets, analysts said, which is why most anything of the size of the Big Tab is built as an “all-in-one” computer.
“With a giant tablet, you’re talking about a lie-flat television with touch, and there hasn’t been much demand for that,” said NPD analyst Stephen Baker. “It’s really the antithesis of what people expect for a tablet.”
But Fujioka and Mitchell said tablet manufacturers have focused too much on making the devices thinner, lighter and faster. In doing so, they’ve missed out on the real need for families to have tabletop and lean-back experiences with their children, they said.
The effort to bring more family-time staples into the digital world will continue the meteoric rise in the usage of electronics by children, said Seeta Pai, vice president at Common Sense Media, which advocates for a reasonable mix of tech in children’s lives.
“The screen is a utility and it has a place, so what we like to tell parents is model good usage of technology and teach kids the etiquette around using it,” she said. “On the face of it, a big tablet sounds like a good idea in terms of fostering collaboration.