LeapFrog (LF) just launched its new LeapPad Ultra tablet this past Tuesday, which will retail for $150, and will be selling online starting July 17th. In-store availability will follow sometime in August. For more detail on this highly anticipated product, please see Engadget's review. More significantly, the new LeapPad Ultra now features multi-touch functionality, courtesy of Neonode (NEON).
LF's LeapPad and other hardware products are 8 of the top 10 best sellers on Amazon's (AMZN) Kids' Electronic Learning and Educational Systems. LeapFrog's software ran-the-table on all of Amazon's top 20 slots for Kids' Software and Books, while its accessories dominate 7 of Amazon's top 10 Kids' Electronic Accessories. Most impressively, LF recently announced that its new LeapReader sold out in its first two weeks. This company, which is particularly focused on the sub-10 age-group, is clearly on a linear growth trajectory, in spite of the Apple's (AAPL) intimidating dominance in tablets.
While neither LeapFrog nor Neonode officially announced anything, it is relatively-easy to come to this conclusion, based on the FCC teardown of the Ultra, whose pictures are featured in an Engadget piece on June 6th. Apparently, the Engadget folks were pretty swift (well done Daniel Cooper!) in grabbing these FCC shots, for LeapFrog immediately and subsequently demanded that they remain classified until December 2013.
As anyone can deduce from the following two pictures the LeapPad Ultra's innards clearly consist of a printed circuit board (PCB) that is studded with light-emitting-diodes (LEDs), corresponding photo-detectors (PDs), and a controller chip (in one of the corners). This PCB (in the LeapPad FCC teardown) has the precise architecture of Neonode's optical infrared touch solution.
How do I know this?
Well if one takes a gander at the FCC teardown report on Oregon Scientific's MEEP! kids tablet, which Neonode has publicly-admitted to being the touch supplier for, you can easily see the exact same PCB, studded with LEDs/PDs, along with a controller chip that says Neonode zForce. This single-chip analog front end controller is the NN1001 controller, manufactured by Neonode's venerable and ardent partner, Texas Instruments (TXN).
Based on my checks, I believe LeapFrog sold about 600K LeapPad units in 2011, about 2.5M LeapPad 1&2 units in 2012, and is expected to be in the 4.5M range this year. Assuming the Ultra will ship about ~2.5 units this year, this could be a nice boon for Neonode this year, especially as they already expect another Top Tier kids tablet to ship this year
Based on 4.881M shorts (a whopping 17.3x days to cover) as of Jun 14th ... wins like LeapFrog, at the very least, prove that Neonode's optical infrared touch solutions are suited for all types of color products, not just black and white reflective screens on eReaders, and could be the impetus for a massive squeeze as printers, autos, kids tablets, and white goods about to ramp, and Windows 8 touch is on its way.