I've spent the last day and half immersed in Intel's Classmate PC Eco System Summit, talking to Intel developers, folks from Microsoft and Canonical, local OEMs handling Classmate sales and distribution, and hardware and software vendors developing for the Classmate platform. Scanning Google News tonight, however, I came across a headline claiming "Disney, Asus bring Netpal Netbooks to kids."
Reading further, the article noted,
Disney and Asus have teamed up to do something others have been doing wrong for a long time: they've developed an affordable and functional portable kids' PC.
So OLPC, Intel, and Dell have been doing it wrong? Along with all of the other netbook vendors whose machines, due to their small size and small price tags, are ideal for kids?
This isn't to say there haven't been missteps along the way. Obviously we're not hearing much from OLPC lately and Dell's first kid-centered entry into the market is on the heavy side (both literally and pricewise). However, aside from Princess Pink and Magic Blue gender-assignment colors, the only thing that the "Netpal" brings to the table is a "Magic Desktop." This is a custom skin with some built-in parental controls that sits over Windows.
Guess what? The Classmate has used some incarnation of the Easybits Magic Desktop for some time now. The comparably priced Clamshell Classmate has similar parental control software plus additional educational software and is highly ruggedized.
Of course, given that you can re-theme your desktop with Pixar goodness on the Netpal and you can buy it at Toys R Us, it's clear that this is a strictly consumer machine. However, to say that bundling a Disney-themed desktop environment with an Asus netbook is "getting kids' netbooks right" is a pretty drastic overstatement. I actually like the Aspire One; it's a fine netbook. There are, however, better solutions for kids.