Tech for Grandmothers?

Levi Pearson levipearson at
Fri Feb 10 18:14:06 MST 2012

On Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 5:26 PM, S. Dale Morrey <sdalemorrey at> wrote:
> Hi Plug,
> This has me thinking; Why hasn't anyone come up with a dedicated
> device that could be used for elderly and shut in older folks to
> communicate with their loved ones?  I'm not talking about a tablet
> that can do everything like an iPad or even a nook color, I just mean
> a dedicated device that only does facebook (yeeech), or some other
> similar service.  I mean what would be involved in taking a cheap
> tablet device, locking it down or at least optimizing the UI for
> something like that?  A simple touchscreen menu with big pictures of
> all the kids & grandkids, touch one and see what they've been up to.
> Press another button and record a little video, or start a video chat?
>  Something like that seems so obvious that I can't believe it doesn't
> exist and I really wonder why this avenue hasn't been explored.

One of the primary reasons that a device like that isn't likely to
come into being is the matter of market size.  The only reason that a
device like an iPad or Nook is relatively cheap these days is the
massive market for them and the resulting economy of scale.
Electronics benefit from economies of scale like few other things.
The raw materials are basically sand, but the process and machinery to
create the finished part require massive, mind-boggling up-front cost.
 The only reason that electronics are so cheap today is that the
mind-bogglingly huge up-front cost is amortized over an even more
incomprehensible number of units sold.

An odd effect of this is that a far less-powerful and featureful
device than something like an iPad would end up being far, far more
expensive to produce, per-unit, than an actual iPad.  So you need a
bigger market than grandparents if you're going to make something that
doesn't look ridiculously overpriced and underfeatured next to an iPad
or Nook or whatever.  It may be possible to get Chinese-designed
tablet that you could load a custom Android build on and re-sell for a
reasonable amount of money, but those aren't exactly high quality.

Probably your best bet would be to make an iPad, Nook, or Kindle Fire
app that does what you want.  Take advantage of the economy of scale
provided by those devices and concentrate on the real differentiating
feature, which is the elderly-friendly UI.


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