GRAND HAVEN, MI – A West Michigan publishing and software company has released a revolutionary children's learning tablet in advance of the holiday shopping season.
The Android tablet, called Little Scholar, was released exclusively in Toys R Us stores by the Grand Haven-based company School Zone in October. For more than 35 years, the company has sold more than 350 million educational products, including workbooks, flashcards and software.
Little Scholar, which is being sold at a market price of $149.99, comes preloaded with more than 200 educational applications, original videos, songs and eBooks, all of which were developed by School Zone and its educational developers in West Michigan. Its target market is children ages 3 to 7.
"We are confident parents will consider Little Scholar the best partner for their child's learning journey," said Jonathan Hoffman, president and CEO of School Zone. "Tech experts give Little Scholar top honors as the best 'out-of-the-box' experience. Our commitment to parents is to provide an easy-to-use device they can feel good about giving to their children without worrying that they might stumble into uncharted territory on the Internet."
Reception since the October release has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Hoffman.
"Forecasts are that they will be sold out leading up to Christmas," he said.
School Zone recently announced that Little Scholar has been nominated by the Toy Industry Association for the Toy of the Year award. Known as the "Oscars" of the toy industry, the 2015 TOTY awards recognize the top toys available during the current holiday season.
A total of 84 unique Toy of the Year finalists were selected for toys in 10 categories, including toys for boys or girls, infants and toddlers, outdoor, games and others.
The tablet is also rated as 2014's best new product by Tech and Learning Magazine.
Hoffman said School Zone began dabbling in software development 18 years ago when it began working with Apple. In their work together, the company was provided a preview to much of the inner-workings of the technology giant.
When Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, Apple approached School Zone to get the software that would eventually become the Little Scholar available for the tablet. Unfortunately, it wasn't compatible.
"The software was very robust," Hoffman said. "We couldn't get it small enough fast enough to take our robust software and have it available for an over-the-air update."
Despite its incompatibility with the iPad, Hoffman said the company, which employs 53 people, learned a ton from the partnership which led to the release of Little Scholar.
The recently released comprehensive tablet is the culmination of more than three years of development and testing. It comes equipped with an 8-inch screen, colorful yet rugged "bumpers" designed to withstand drops and bangs, nearly seven hours of battery life and an extra-long power cord.
It also features music from Brian Vander Ark of the Verve Pipe, an "A+ application" for parents that tracks the curriculum the user is or isn't using and password-protected parental controls.