Apple rules the tablet market because Toys 'R Us can sell the iPad

Tech as toy; toys 'R tech

If an online report is correct, Apple is about to confirm in a striking way the new direction for high tech products: selling them as, essentially, toys. And "toy" means something specific in this context: it's something that you don't need to be trained or educated or expert to use. You simply pick it up and...play.

Until like about yesterday, computers have been sold in relatively specialized "electronics" stores or at least in electronics departments of the big box chains that focus on a broad range of tech-based products (as well as online, though the online sales strike me as a broadly similar "specialized" experience also.

But Apple has been moving its mobile products into entirely new venues, like Target and, most notably, Wal-Mart. They can have "electronics" departments but the stores themselves aren't associated with technology in the way Best Buy is, for example.

But the Apple-focused news and forum site, ModMyi.com, is reporting that Toys 'R Us is training retail staff on selling the iPad 2. In the post, staff writer Michael Essany says MMi was tipped off by a Toys 'R Us employee, who supplied what appear to be corporate training materials about the tablet. According to the employee, the retailer will start offering the iPad 2 in May.

Even if it turns out not to be true, there's nothing implausible about a toy chain, or probably even a drug store chain, selling iPads. I'm not so sure about the current generation of Android tablets.

The reason is that Apple's approach to designing products like iPod, iPhone, and iPad is to submerge the thing called "technology" deep beneath the "experience." iPad isn't the first tablet. But it's certainly the first that almost anyone can, in most cases, simply pick up and begin using pretty easily to do things that are interesting, worthwhile, valuable, productive, or fun. And in many cases, all of the above.

So while there will be specific Android tablets that have a more powerful CPU or a better camera or more memory, they likely won't the devices you'll find the toy store.

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