Months ago I was invited to an intimate presentation by Disney. OK. If we're honest I had a) no idea that it was going to be so intimate and b) no clue that what we were going to see was going to be so awesome.
It was early in the game because the Netpal was still a prototype. A very advanced prototype, but a prototype nonetheless. It didn't matter. It still wowed me.
Think of a netbook computer that has been reinforced and toughened up to withstand child use. Then imagine software that has been designed with Disney's usual attention to detail. Got it? OK. No imagine something about 50x cooler. Now you have the Netpal.
The true beauty of the Netpal is the proprietary software created by Disney. Bear in mind that I didn't get to spend time testing it out. I just saw what the person showing off the computer showed us, but it was still pretty darn cool.
Basically there are two sections to the software - the parent section and the kid section. The parent section controls everything. The kid section controls only what the parent says it can. Have different kids of different ages? You can have multiple settings. Want your child to have access to certain programs at some times, but not others? No problem, you can set limits according to a calendar.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The entire kid's section is depicted with picture icons. You don't have to be able to read to use the computer. That's right. They can launch their games without. your. help.
OK. I'm going to stop gushing now. Though I can't promise I won't gush again and do a full review if I can ever get my hands on one.
As for you? Well, if you were at all toying with the idea of getting your kids a computer or a netbook sometime this fall, you could do a lot worse than going with this little gem. You can get one for about $350. Oddly it's already available at ToysRUs, but still 'not released' at Amazon. Go figure.